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Govt may ban clothing dyes linked to cancer

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The Federal Government may ban dyes which are often used in clothing and have been linked to cancer.

As the ABC reports, at the request of Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating the use of the chemicals, known as azo dyes.

The ACCC will deliver a report on the use of the dyes in July.

There are 300 azo dyes. 20 of these break down into compounds called aromatic amines which are carcinogenic.

The ACCC has already recalled about 207,000 items of clothing that contain azo dyes. In addition, the dyes are already banned in Europe.

Experts claim the risk of cancer from clothes with azo dyes is very low.

UNSW Professor Bernard Stewart, a scientific advisor to the Cancer Council Australia, told the SMH that the affected products should not cause undue concern. The concern being shown is simply an act 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."

Cancer Council Australia spokesman Professor Bernard Stewart told the ABC that some of the azo dyes are carcinogenic, but in different contexts.

"They are carcinogenic in the sense that decades ago with different industrial procedures, men who were actually making large quantities of these chemicals developed bladder cancer ...,” he said.

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