Azo Dyes are Banned Here

Azo Dyes in textiles account for more than 50% of the worlds annual production and 70% of all organic commercial dyes today.

Azo Compounds are used widely in every type of fiber used today to dye clothing. These productions include:

  • Food
  • Textiles
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Cosmetic
  • Leather industries

Azo dyes in textiles are a general term that refers to synthetic dyes. The main countries where they are found are:

  • China
  • Korea
  • Argentina - where most of our clothes come from!   

The issue however; is that they have also been shown to have extensive environmental and health consequences.

There are too many chemicals to count nowadays.  Our manufacturer sends us a list every month of chemicals in clothing that they are avoiding. That is how fast these chemicals are changing.  There are constantly new chemicals coming out and changing that they have to send out a list every month! 

So, let's talk about Azo Dyes! 

Toxicity of Azo Dyes

As early as 1895 there had been increased rates in bladder cancer who were working in dye manufacturing.

Thankfully the toxicity of Azo Dyes have been studied extensively.  There are still a lot of dyes out there that have not been extensively studied so we will take what we can get! Since then the studies have been around the toxicity of Azo Dyes. They do know that Azo dyes have carcinogens in them, but they do not know if it is in the dye itself or in the metabolite of the dye. There are three countries that have recognized this dye as carcinogenic:

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Netherlands
In Germany, they have recognized that azo dyes can cause bladder cancer and have claimed it as an occupational disease for textile workers! Germany has a MAK Kommission that tests different chemicals and values if they are toxic for employees during a 40 hour work week being exposed to them.  How great is that! Something I believe should be implemented here in the United States.

"The task of this working group, the largest in the Commission, is the derivation of MAK values for chemical substances on the basis of experience gained in the handling of these substances, with respect to their toxicological, occupational health or occupational hygiene effects. The MAK value is the maximum permissible concentration of a substance as a gas, vapour or aerosol in the air at the workplace which, according to current knowledge, does not normally affect worker health or cause unreasonable nuisance even with repeated and long-term exposure, usually 8 hours a day, but assuming an average weekly working time of 40 hours." - Mak Komission

These dyes are not allowed to be used for leather or textile articles that have the potential of coming into direct contact with human skin in these countries! This means these countries have banned these chemicals in clothing, bedding, towels etc!! 

AZO DYE Free Crews


How do Azo Toxins Get Released into Your Skin?

Just like polyester and other toxic fabrics and dyes we have talked about in our other blog posts - the toxicity in Azo Dyes can release into your pores from human perspiration. These types of dyes usually have low perspiration fastness. After the dye is leached out from perspiration it will transfer into the body by your skin pores. This is how the Azo Dyes cleave to your skin bacteria according to this study:

"After intake into the human body these azo compounds may be cleaved by means of reduction during metabolism and then form the corresponding aromatic amines from which they had been synthesised. Intestinal bacteria are capable of azo cleavage; the liver also produces corresponding reductive enzymes. Furthermore, there are indications from experiments that azo cleavage may also take place during skin passage and that skin bacteria are capable of cleaving azo dyes."

AZO DYE Free Boxers

azo dye free boxers

Are These Dyes Banned in Manufacturers?

Common dye producing countries such as, Hong Kong, China, India and Turkey have been aware of this hazardous dye and the azo dye has received much needed attention in these countries. In 1996 the India government proposed a ban on the manufacturers, sale and use of 74 azo dyes that were found to be carcinogenic.

"The Indian government claimed that the ban will also protect domestic consumers from exposure to hazardous dyes. The use of 42 benzidine dyes in textile and leather has been prohibited in India since 1 February 1993." - R.B. Chavan

Thankfully, here in California azo dyes have been banned through our proposition 65. So any clothes made in CA will not have azo dyes in them! This is one of the many reasons we manufacture in California. 

Are Azo Dyes Popular on all Fabric Types? 

As mentioned before azo dyes make up 70% of all organic commercial dyes used on textiles, leather goods, cosmetics etc. Within the bracket of textiles; these dyes are mostly on cotton.  Even though apparel may be organic cotton, it can still have chemical dyes on the fabrics. This is one reason we make sure our clothes are 100% carcinogenic free. You will not find any azo dyes on our clothes! 

Would love to hear any comments our questions below! 

-Leisure Team

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1 comment

can i have more history into the other harmful chemicals like Nickel, Pfoas Npeos in textiles.

Ruma Chakrabarti

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