Ilorin Stakeholders react to Chinese cancer causing school uniform alert


School owners must halt needless importation of education materials – Proprietress

By Matthew Denis

Reactions have continued to trail recent alert issued by Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, over possibility of Nigeria having carcinogenic  (cancer causing) uniforms manufactured in China shipped into its borders after a consignment of such uniforms were discovered in Hong Kong, recently, National Pilot can exclusively report. This medium further learnt that the alleged poisoned fabrics are not the only source of worry, as other school items manufactured in the same country may have the azo dye elements that could cause cancer.

Commenting on the possible menace, Mrs Olayemi Adana, proprietress, Royalty School, Ilorin, said that she was aware of penchants of some school owners to go for school fabrics and other education materials imported from China. “They do so purely on the erroneous belief that there are no better local contents in the country,” said Mrs. Adana. She further added that there is need for worry on the matter and called on relevant authority to be on the watch for the sake of pupils.

The said ‘poisoned’ material may not just be restricted to school uniforms alone as reported by SON, but also extended to school equipments like toys for kindergarten and nursery pupils and other school items made of synthetic fibres. Even more worrisome, as discovered by this medium is that mushroom schools in a bid to stay competitive now import basic school items like uniforms, toys and other school items from China.

“The Hong Kong alert is just warning we must heed, especially as Nigeria further deepens ties with the Asian country. As we speak, representations have been made by various teachers, associations to the ministry over the matter and I can assure you that we are taking it seriously,” explained a Federal Ministry of Education source who spoke to the newspaper.

Meanwhile, SON has assured that it has put up a nationwide alert on the matter.

“It is imperative that all stakeholders in the education sector be on the alert to inform us if there is any strange importation of this kind for SON to take appropriate measures to protect our children,” explained Bola Fasina, an information manager, with the Standards Organisation to the newspaper.

Last week, Director-General, SON, Osita Aboloma, in Abuja, alerted the country on the discovery of some cancer causing (carcinogenic) uniforms in Hong Kong. Aboloma warned importers of fabrics, especially school uniform materials into Nigeria about the cancer-causing substances found in some school uniform materials made by China based companies. SON identified the cancer causing agents in the fabrics as azo dyes.

The substances, Azo dyes are used in dyeing textile fibres, particularly cotton and also silk, wool, viscose and synthetic fibres. They are considered to be easy to use, relatively cheap and to provide clear, strong colours. Like most consumer products, most school proprietors, to maintain competitive edge favour colourful products and hence colour has become an important aesthetic factor in the fashion industry. Different colourants including dyes and pigments are used for the colouration of fashion articles such as apparel, textile, footwear and accessories. Azo dyes also has large applications with synthetic fabrics, which are textiles made from man-made rather than natural fibres. Examples of synthetic fabrics include polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon, acetate, spandex, lastex, orlon and Kevlar.

The trouble with Azo dye is that some of its amines, i.e. chemical substances it releases are carcinogenic, especially when the wearer sweats or is ingested especially when kids put toys or fabric dyed with Azo in their mouth.

In garments, the sources of banned amines are all coloured items such as polyester buttons, beads and sequins, zipper fabric, sewing threads or yarns, base fabrics and leather components. Azo dyes releasing specific amines (under certain conditions) are restricted in the EU, China, India, Egypt, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. The amount of a banned amine that can be detected in the finished articles is limited to either 30 mg/Kg in the EU and 20 mg/Kg in China. Several brands have a Maximum Allowable Concentration on finished articles as 20 mg.

 But the sample found in Hong Kong, according to SON, contained up to 173 milligrams and 41 milligrams per kilogramme of the tested samples respectively. Further clarifying the matter, SON said  that the amounts of the dye contained in the materials were well above the maximum allowed in the standard. “Use of the 4-amino azo dyes have been banned in Europe, Japan and other parts of the world prior to the finding.

“Azo dyes could release carcinogenic substances known as aromatic amines when they mix with sweat, which accounted for the ban on the use of the dye in many countries of the world,” explained Fasina. The Standards Organisation further named the companies producing the materials as Sing Shun Fat School-Clothier Company and Zenith Uniform Company.

SON has a process in place for assessment of such materials prior to import, through the SON off-shore Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP), to avoid bringing them to the country.

But the organisation is worried that some of the material may have found their way into the country and hence advised Nigerians to report any suspected uniform materials that may already be in the country to SON for necessary sampling, laboratory tests and analysis to be carried out at its Textile and Leather Laboratory in Kaduna.

“Regardless of how bad the textile industry appears to be in the country, there are good local sources for school uniforms and other materials,” says Mrs. Adana. According to her, there are companies in Ikeja, and Ibadan who could do well in fabric supplies for schools.

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