The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s regular market surveillance activities have prompted recalls of four pairs of jeans and one pillowslip for having unacceptable concentrations of certain ‘azo’ dyes containing unacceptable concentration of aromatic amines.

“The ACCC regularly checks products sold in Australia for chemicals that may be of concern. Recently, the ACCC conducted testing for hazardous aromatic amines following the referral of specific benzidine-based dyes identified through a National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)risk assessment process,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“In checking common clothing and textile goods for specific dyes used in the manufacturing process, the ACCC found a 97 per cent rate of compliance.”

Following testing, the ACCC contacted suppliers of dyed clothing and bedding found to contain the problem dyes above the acceptable limit. In all cases, the suppliers acted responsibly and promptly ceased supply of the affected stock and initiated voluntary recalls of the articles.

“The evidence available to the ACCC from testing does not suggest there is a widespread problem. Many Australian suppliers have systems in place to avoid particular dyes being used by manufacturers overseas,” Ms Rickard said.

“The companies concerned are currently investigating how these dyes were substituted in the manufacturing of these products.”

Azo dyes are a large class of very effective synthetic dyes used for colouring a variety of consumer goods such as foods, cosmetics, carpets, clothes, leather and textiles. A small proportion of azo dyes can be hazardous to human health. However, it is only certain azo dyes that are problematic. The majority of azo dyes do not result in exposure to high concentrations are aromatic amines.

While these dyes are not banned for textiles use in Australia, if the ACCC identifies safety concerns it can recommend suppliers recall unsafe goods. Where a supplier decides not to voluntarily recall unsafe goods, there is an option under the Australian Consumer Law to compel them to recall.

As consumers are not able to tell which articles contain certain chemicals, suppliers should ensure that the total maximum level of hazardous aromatic amines in direct and prolonged contact with the skin be no more than 30 mg/kg (which is 30 parts per million). There are effective alternative dyes available to manufacturers that are not hazardous.

“The ACCC is continuing to monitor the market and test products. We will work with industry in the event that any further problem articles are identified,” Ms Rickard said.

“Consumers that have purchased these products should stop using clothing or linen that has been recalled, contact the retail outlet the product was bought from and advise them that they have purchased a recalled product.”

Details of affected suppliers and goods recalled

  • Rivers Australia – Doghouse style children’s dark denim and black jeans
  • Just Jeans – Girls jeans and boys shorts
  • Pillowtalk – Red pillow slip sheet set