A growing recall of thousands of jeans, shorts and bed linen due to a carcinogenic clothing dye is nothing to be worried about, a cancer expert says.
More than 120,000 items of clothing have already been recalled by Australian retailers due to high levels of a hazardous type of azo dye, and more clothing could be yanked off store shelves in the coming weeks.
Myer pulled several types of children's jeans on Thursday while Target removed both infant and children's clothing and two lines of women's jeans.
Other retailers who have recalled jeans include Rivers, Just Jeans and Trade Secret while Pillow Talk removed pillow cases and bed sheets.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says chemical testing found high levels of the dye in the recalled clothing, which can break down into a carcinogenic substance that's absorbed into the skin.
"Further recalls are possible in the coming weeks," the ACCC said in a statement.
But UNSW Professor Bernard Stewart, a scientific advisor to Cancer Council Australia, said the recall is only being done out of an extreme abundance of caution.
"I believe people should have no concern whatsoever," he said.
"Such concern is misplaced. If you want to be worried about cancer in your kids, you prevent them from excessive exposure to sunlight, you encourage them to exercise and pray to God they never take up smoking. But you don't worry about what they're wearing."
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard agreed, saying it's important to remember that while the clothing dyes are a health concern, the risk remains very low.
"You would really need to have worn it over a long period of time in hot, sweaty, grubby conditions," she said.
"We obviously would prefer there was none of this in these clothes, which is what we're working towards, but we don't believe that there is a reason to panic."
The use of azo dyes is banned in Europe but not Australia, despite the possible health risks.
The recalls have been triggered because a small number of these types of azo dyes have been found to be a hazard when in direct and prolonged contact with skin.
Other kinds of azo dyes are used in food and cosmetics, but these chemicals are not part of the subset known to become a carcinogenic risk.
All of the clothing that has been recalled has been made in China or Bangladesh, with the ACCC having tested clothing and textiles at all price points.
Small Business Minister Bruce Billson said he has asked the consumer watchdog to study the issue further to find out if tougher regulation on dyes is needed.
"The ACCC has an active recall program under way and continues to monitor the market to ensure consumers are not exposed to products that contain azo dyes above the acceptable limit," he said.
"Consumers that have purchased any recalled product should stop using them, contact the retail outlet the product was bought from, and advise them that they have purchased a recalled product."
Most of the recalled jeans and bed sheets have been sold in February and April, though some lines of clothing date back to the beginning of 2013.
Details on the recalled clothing can be found on www.recalls.gov.au.
Lines of clothing and manchester impacted by the recalls:
- Rivers: Doghouse style children’s dark denim jeans and Doghouse style children’s black jeans
- Just Jeans: Just Jeans junior girls skinny jeans and junior boys denim shorts
- Pillow Talk: Pillow Talk 50/50 Poly/Cotton 225 thread count plain dye range - red only
- Trade Secret: Firetrap Blackseal super skinny girls jeans
- Just Jeans: Junior girls jeans, junior boys pants and shorts
- Myer: Milkshake classic jeans
- Myer: Wayne junior acid wash jeans
- Target: Kid's and ladies' denim jeans