Uniforms from two Hong Kong secondary schools have been found to contain cancer-causing chemicals from dyes banned years ago in Europe and Japan, the city’s consumer council revealed Monday.
The girls’ uniforms were for Lingnan Secondary School in Heng Fa Chuen and Fung Kai No. 1 Secondary School in Sheung Shui, and were sold by at least two of about 40 suppliers in the city.
Both suppliers said they had stopped selling the uniforms and that the toxic material came from the mainland, which had only banned dyes containing more than 20 mg per kilogram (mg/kg) of 4-amino azobenzene.
The council found the grey-blue trim on the blouse of the Lingnan school uniform contained 173mg/kg of the chemical — more than eight times what was allowed on the mainland. A checked waist belt for the Fung Kai school uniform contained 41 mg/kg, twice the permitted level.
Wong Yuk-shan, chairman of the council, said when the azo dyes were mixed with students’ body heat and sweat, the harmful chemical could be released and absorbed by the skin.
“This is most unsettling and unsatisfactory,” he said.
The findings came after the council checked 49 samples of school uniforms — those with designs and colors most commonly used in the city — sourced from 22 suppliers. It found Zenith Uniform made the waist belt, while Sing Shun Fat School Clother Co. made the blouse trim.
Zenith Uniform apologized yesterday for supplying the clothes, but said it was also a victim.
“I have to apologize to the parents, schools and school uniform suppliers for making them worried,” said Zenith Uniform’s manager, who gave her name only as Ho.
Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Ho said the cloth had been bought about 12 years ago from a Sham Shui Po shop — a registered company. She stressed that she did not know that the material contained toxic substances.