Retailers recall more than 50,000 jeans and pillow cases after ACCC finds hazardous chemicals

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Australian retailers including Myer, Target, Just Jeans, Rivers and Trade Secret have recalled more than 50,000 items after an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found the products were made with dyes containing hazardous chemicals.

Since February there has been eight recalls of 28 product lines due to dyes containing hazardous aromatic amines, known as azo dyes. Seven of the recalls relate to brands of jeans, while retailer Pillow Talk recalled a brand of pillow cases on 20 February.

Just Jeans recalled five brands of children’s jeans in March and April; Rivers recalled two children’s jeans product lines in March; Trade Secret recalled one brand of jeans in April; Myer recalled two brands of jeans on Wednesday; and today Target announced a recall of five product lines, including three children’s lines of pants and shorts, and two styles of women’s jeans.

The retailers are recommending customers return any purchases to receive refunds.

According to the Herald Sun, azo dyes can break down to form carcinogenic chemicals which can be absorbed through skin, with the risk heightened if the textile has prolonged contact with the body.

In its recall notice, Target said it is initiating the recall as the products do not “meet Target Australia strict quality assurance standards”.

“Whilst this dye is not banned for textile use in Australia, expert authorities classify these aco-colourants as carcinogens [and] exposure to these chemicals should be minimised.”

A spokesperson for Target told SmartCompany the retailer has recently adopted the European standard regarding azo dyes and has “instructed our suppliers that they are not to use these types of dyes in our products going forward”.

“We have put stringent measures in place to ensure there are no azo dyes in our products at supplier level and will continue to monitor production rigorously to ensure all products meet Target’s high quality standards,” said the spokesperson. “We will always act with customer safety as our top priority.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Myer, with a company spokesperson telling SmartCompany the retailer recalled the products voluntarily “in the interests of customer safety”. 

“Myer takes product safety for our valued customers very seriously and as soon as we were aware of an issue with azo dyes we immediately withdrew the two products from sale,” said the spokesperson. 

The ACCC said in a statement further recalls are possible in coming weeks as the consumer watchdog considers “how to best manage the ongoing issue of dyed articles containing hazardous aromatic amines longer term and make recommendations to government”.

The ACCC said this is the first time it has tested jeans and some Manchester items in relation to azo dyes.

The tests, completed in three phases, followed a recommendation from the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, although there are currently no specific regulations relating to the use of the dyes in Australia.

The ACCC said Small Business Minister Bruce Billson has initiated a review into the regulation of the use of hazardous dyes in clothing and textile articles, and that the process will involve consultation with stakeholders and the development of an impact statement.

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Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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