Textiles recalled after tests for azo dyes

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently tested common clothing and textile goods for specific dyes used in the manufacturing process. The ACCC found a small number contained unacceptable concentrations of certain azo dyes, which are known to break down to carcinogenic compounds called aromatic amines.

The ACCC’s work included an initial survey of 199 representative articles likely to come into prolonged and direct contact with the skin. Around 97% of articles were within the acceptable limits of 30 mg/kg of total aromatic amines.

Suppliers of products found to exceed the acceptable limit acted responsibly, promptly ceasing supply of the affected stock and initiating voluntary recalls of the article. The ACCC has now been notified of 12 voluntary recalls involving 37 product lines and almost 208,000 items.

Pacific Brands has conducted its own testing and notified the ACCC that they are voluntarily recalling their Mossimo Blue boy’s outerwear jacket in sizes 8-16. 68 of the jackets have been sold and were stocked by Myer, Hip Hop Kidz Stop, Pauline Maree, Sweet Things Kids Wear, Urban Equipment, Trade Secret, Mossimo retail stores and sold online at Mossimo.com.au.

“The ACCC testing uncovered a number of products that were made using an Azo dye, a chemical linked to cancer. Although the risk to consumers is very low, any avoidable risk should be managed responsibly. Consumers who have purchased these products should stop using clothing or linen that has been recalled, and return the product to the retail outlet for a refund,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“The ACCC acknowledges the work being done by industry in checking articles for hazardous azo dyes and acting to recall if detections are made,” Ms Rickard said.

The articles affected by the recalls are all manufactured overseas and the issue seems to have arisen from the unauthorised substitution of dyes early in the manufacturing process overseas. Consumers are not able to tell which articles contain certain chemicals and there are effective alternative dyes available to manufacturers. The Australian retailers have generally advised that their purchasing specifications do not allow for the use these dyes and that they either work to the European Union limits or lower. While the European Union has regulations, other countries, such as Canada, have chosen not to regulate these chemicals.

At the request of the Minister (the Hon. Bruce Billson) the ACCC has commenced a process to assess whether further regulation is required to address the potential hazards associated with hazardous dyes in clothing and textile articles.

View the recalls:

Safe levels of exposure

It is difficult to specify a ‘safe’ limit for the chemicals that may be released from some azo dyes.  Many common substances are classified as carcinogens and some exposure to them will not result in cancer. Experts do recommend minimising or eliminating exposure to hazardous aromatic amines such as benzidine.

As consumers are not able to tell which articles contain certain chemicals and there are effective alternative dyes available to manufacturers, the ACCC takes the view that the total maximum level of hazardous aromatic amines in articles in direct and prolonged contact with the skin should be 30 mg/kg (which is 30 parts per million).

Evidence does not suggest the problem is widespread

The evidence available to ACCC does not suggest the problematic azo dyes being used to dye certain articles is widespread. Initial ACCC testing found over 97% of articles tested did not have high levels of problematic dyes. This result is consistent with testing conducted by other national consumer product regulators.

Many Australian suppliers already have systems in place to manage for the possibility of the wrong dyes being used by manufacturers overseas however it is possible cheaper dyes are being substituted somewhere in the production process.

Advice for people who have worn recalled clothing

Exposure from normal use of textile products that have been recalled would be very low. As expert authorities recommend minimising exposure – the ACCC and suppliers have advised consumers should stop using clothing or linen that has been recalled.

Published date: 
15 May 2014