In our expert interview with Steve Ashdown of Venator we talk about the growth perspectives in pigmentary and protective applications of titanium dioxide, smart coatings and the the recent discussions on classifying TiO2.
What are the current challenges when it comes to titanium dioxide?
Steve Ashdown: All industries face the challenge of keeping pace with regulatory changes and the titanium dioxide industry is no different. It is important that we keep abreast of these changes, and that we anticipate future developments and shape our innovation strategies accordingly. The end-users of titanium dioxide are incorporating it into ever more sophisticated and challenging applications, and the world of surface coatings is foremost in this respect. This provides great opportunities for innovation and development for a multi-functional material like titanium dioxide, whilst keeping the industry on its toes with respect to the traditional demands of cost-effective opacity, whiteness and longevity. What trends will dominate in the titanium dioxide segment in the near future from your point of view?
Ashdown: We expect to see continuing growth in pigmentary and protective applications of titanium dioxide across all segments, especially paints, coatings and printing inks, and as global innovation trends drive the demand for more “intelligent” materials, we expect to see growth in applications that exploit its properties beyond visible light scattering.
So-called “smart” coatings will be one area where titanium dioxide will continue to play a significant role, coatings that provide more than the traditional aesthetic or protective effect. Hygienic coatings based on titanium dioxide functionality are becoming established, and we see other “smart” applications that will be enabled by its unique properties, for instance, surfaces that probe and report their environment.
How do you rate the proposed classification for titanium dioxide in Europe?
Ashdown: Venator, as a part of the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TDMA), has been engaging constructively with the EU Authorities in the regulatory discussion on the proposal to classify TiO2 as a suspected carcinogen (category 2) by inhalation under the EU’s classification and labelling (CLP) Regulation. TiO2 is not hazardous in itself, as the suspected hazard relates to the possibility of respirable dust (irrespective of substance) being inhaled at extreme concentration over an extended period of time, which the EU Authorities recognise.
The classification could therefore affect hundreds of other large volume substances that are similar to TiO2. The TiO2 industry agrees with many EU Member States and interested parties that the classification is not an appropriate measure to address the potential general dust concerns described for TiO2.
We stand behind the safety of TiO2 in all known applications and we’re fully committed to working with the EU Authorities to find a proportionate and effective regulatory resolution as soon as possible.