Possible effects of titanium dioxide particles on human liver, intestinal tissue, spleen and kidney after oral exposure

Walter Brand*, Ruud J.B. Peters, Hedwig M. Braakhuis, Lidka Maślankiewicz, Agnes G. Oomen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Recent studies reported adverse liver effects and intestinal tumor formation after oral exposure to titanium dioxide (TiO2). Other oral toxicological studies, however, observed no effects on liver and intestine, despite prolonged exposure and/or high doses. In the present assessment, we aimed to better understand whether TiO2 can induce such effects at conditions relevant for humans. Therefore, we focused not only on the clinical and histopathological observations, but also used Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) to consider earlier steps (Key Events). In addition, aiming for a more accurate risk assessment, the available information on organ concentrations of Ti (resulting from exposure to TiO2) from oral animal studies was compared to recently reported concentrations found in human postmortem organs. The overview obtained with the AOP approach indicates that TiO2 can trigger a number of key events in liver and intestine: Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) generation, induction of oxidative stress and inflammation. TiO2 seems to be able to exert these early effects in animal studies at Ti liver concentrations that are only a factor of 30 and 6 times higher than the median and highest liver concentration found in humans, respectively. This confirms earlier conclusions that adverse effects on the liver in humans as a result of (oral) TiO2 exposure cannot be excluded. Data for comparison with Ti levels in human intestinal tissue, spleen and kidney with effect concentrations were too limited to draw firm conclusions. The Ti levels, though, are similar or higher than those found in liver, suggesting these tissues may be relevant too.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jul 2020


  • Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP)
  • food additive E171
  • internal organ concentration
  • risk assessment
  • TiO2

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