More Recalls of Jeans from Cotton On, Jeans West, Rivers Australia Announced for HIgh Levels of Cancer-Causing Dye

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A couple hold hands as they walk through downtown Sydney with their shopping from Australian department store retailer Myer, March 6, 2014.
A couple hold hands as they walk through downtown Sydney with their shopping from Australian department store retailer Myer, March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed REUTERS/Jason Reed

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced further recalls for jeans sold in Cotton On, Jeans West and Rivers Australia in its continuing effort to prevent risk of a possible contamination with high levels of cancer-causing azo dyes. Since February, Australians have been asked to return 24 styles of jeans and one type of pillow slip and bed sheet. Laboratory testing has revealed they contained "unacceptable" levels of azo dye.

The Herald Sun reports the following brand and style of jeans now included in the recall:

  • Cotton On - Men's "Spitfire" denim jeans.
  • Jeanswest - Bel Skinny 7/8 size 6-16 and Bel Curve Embracer Skinny 7/8 Jeans size 8-20
  • Rivers Australia - Doghouse style children's dark-denim jeans, Doghouse style children's black jeans, and Mens Jeans in black, indigo and dark denim.

According to reports, certain types of azo dyes can break down to form "aromatic amines" when there is prolonged contact with the skin. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the amines as carcinogens or cancer-causing substances.

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.  

Despite the continuing recalls, 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."

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 and sweltering conditions.

Target had 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 aside from Cotton On, Jeans West and Rivers Australia are the ones in Trade Secret. Pillow Talk had removed bed sheets and pillow cases from its shelves.

Australian retailer Myer has called on the government to shed more light to the matter.

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