Cancer-causing dye found in kids' clothes

Kristy Mayr for 7News Investigations

Cancer causing dye found in kid's clothes

Parents are being urged to check their children's clothing after a cancer-causing dye was found in kids jeans on sale at two major retailers.

The shock find has led to calls for tough new laws to make the toxic chemicals illegal in Australia.

Two-year-old Molly loves to dress in the latest fashions, so it has come as a shock to mum Kate that certain clothes could cause cancer.

"You go to the shops and you look for the good quality and the good prices but you never think that there's things in your children's clothes that could potentially kill them," she said.

The problem is a carcinogen known as "azo" dye, recently detected in imported clothing and sold at chain stores Just Jeans and Rivers, and in some manchester purchased at PillowTalk.

Children's jeans and shorts are among the items tainted by the toxic dye.

"The research has shown that the skin bacteria can break down the dyes and cause a cancer through the breakdown products," a Cancer Council spokesperson said.

Azo dye is typically used to colour garments orange, yellow or red and is not illegal in Australia despite the potential risks

Many companies impose a voluntary ban on the substance but with 95 per cent of clothing now imported, it can be difficult to police the offshore suppliers

A 2010 industry submission called for tough new federal laws to ban these types of dangerous chemicals But four years on, nothing's been done.

"This needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, why is it that Europe and the US have acted decisively, yet it appears that Australian regulators have sat on their hands?" Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said.

In the meantime, all companies have issued urgent recalls and investigations into the suppliers are underway.