Australian Retailers Recall of Cancer-Causing Clothing Downplayed Due to 'Low Risk'

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The sign outside the Target store is seen in Arvada, Colorado January 10, 2014.
The sign outside the Target store is seen in Arvada, Colorado January 10, 2014. Reuters

A cancer expert has downplayed the recall of Australian retailers for thousands of shorts, jeans and bed linen with the reported cancer-causing clothing dye. University of New South Wales Professor and Cancer Council Australia Scientific Advisor Bernard Stewartas said the clothing recall was borne out of an "extreme abundance of caution."

Australian retailers have recalled over 120,000 items of clothing due to the high levels of azo dye believed to have health risks. According to reports, more items will be taken off the shelves in the coming weeks in the ongoing recall.

Target pulled out infant's and children's clothing, including two lines of women's jeans. Myer took down several lines of children's jeans on May 8. Other jeans taken off the shelves were Just Jeans, Rivers and Trade Secret. Pillow Talk had removed bed sheets and pillow cases from its shelves.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), chemical test results revealed high levels of dye in the recalled clothing items. The ACCC said the dye may break into a cancerous substance which can be absorbed by the skin. In a statement, the commission said more recalls may be needed in theh coming weeks.

Prof. Stewart believes the recalls may not be necessary since there is no cause for concern. He said people should not worry about getting cancer from what they're wearing. ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard agreed with the cancer expert noting the risk "remains very low." She stressed a person would have to wear the exposed clothing for a long time in "hot, sweaty and grubby conditions."

Rickard said Australians should not panic. The ACCC would have preferred there was no such dye used in making the clothes and that is something the commission is working on.

Brisbane Times reported the use of dyes with azo is already banned in Europe due to possible health risks, but not in Australia. Australian retailers issued recalls because they found out a small number of azo dyes are harmful when there is prolonged and direct contact to the skin. The recall has affected clothing made in Bangladesh or China.  

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson said the ACCC will be asked to investigate if there is a need for a tougher regulation on dyes. He advised consumers who have purchases the recalled items to stop using them and contact the retail outlet where the items were bought.

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