Dangerous dyes need tougher controls

24th March 2014

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to block imports of dangerous chemicals in clothing, following a recall of three products found to contain potentially harmful “azo” dyes.

This month saw the ACCC force a recall of two jeans products, from Just Jeans and Rivers Australia, and a pillow case product from Pillow Talk, which were found to contain azo dyes after the ACCC tested 199 imported products.

Azo, or aminoazobenzene dyes, can break down into cancer-causing chemicals after prolonged exposure to the skin.

“Today I wrote to the ACCC to request it’s consumer protection arm, Product Safety Australia, to conduct an urgent review of azo dye imports and clarify its position on this issue,” Nick said. Nick will also write to the Federal Minister for Consumer Affairs, Bruce Billson, and the state offices of consumer affairs, raising concerns about the imports.

“This month’s ACCC recall included children’s clothing as well as a pillow case, which is a huge concern for public health.”

“It’s astonishing that there appears to be no laws or rules in place to restrict the importation of products containing azo dyes.”

Senator Xenophon called for an urgent audit of garment and bedding imports by the ACCC so as to determine the level of Australians’ exposure to foreign azo dyes.

“The ACCC tested 199 products and found three contained dangerous chemicals. This raises the question: how many other products are being sold to Australians every day that also contain these dyes?” Nick said.

Bans and restrictions were in place in Europe and the United States but in Australia there were reportedly no legal barriers to importing azo dyed products.

This is despite reports that the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (part of the Federal Department of Health) is backing a ban of hazardous azo dyes and calling on the ACCC to restrict their sale to consumers.

“Why should Australian consumers, especially kids, be subject to lesser standards than those in Europe and the US?” asked Nick.