Jeromy Choi, a fifth-year engineering student at the University of Ottawa, shakes off excess dye after submerging himself in the it — an engineering tradition during the start of Frosh week at the University of Ottawa on Sept 5, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit)

VIDEO: Students review use of purple dye at frosh events after Health Canada warning

Products that contain gentian violet were linked to an increased risk of cancer

Some engineering students are rethinking how to approach a long-standing tradition of dying their bodies purple in the wake of a Health Canada warning.

Student representatives at Queen’s University and the University of Toronto say they’re looking at alternatives to gentian violet after health products that contain the substance were linked to an increased risk of cancer.

The dye is popular among some campus engineering societies who’ve made it a tradition to colour students’ hair, pinkies, and even entire bodies at frosh events.

Laura Berneaga, president of the University of Toronto engineering society, says it’s considered a way to honour engineers of yore who used to wear purple armbands as identification.

But now that it’s come under Health Canada scrutiny, she says her school’s orientation committee is searching for possible alternatives.

“We want to make sure that safety is the number one priority for us,” says Berneaga, adding that they’d like to continue the rite of passage, if possible.

“Whatever option we end up going with, we want to make sure the students feel safe participating in this tradition.”

Health Canada issued the warning last month following a review of health products and veterinary drugs containing gentian violet.

“After completing two safety assessments, the department concluded that, as with other known cancer causing substances, there is no safe level of exposure, and therefore any exposure to these drug products is a potential cause for concern,” the agency says in a statement.

Over at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., the engineering society president says they are taking a cautious approach.

“Given the clear health warning issued by the government, the engineering society cannot endorse the use of gentian violet. The society is currently researching alternatives,” says Delaney Benoit, reading a statement also posted to Facebook.

READ MORE: ‘Eat Smart’ kale salad bags recalled in six provinces over listeria

So-called “purpling” has been common practice for years at several Ontario schools including Western University in London, the University of Waterloo, the University of Ottawa, and Ryerson University in downtown Toronto.

Gentian violet, also known as crystal violet, is an antiseptic dye used to treat fungal infections.

Health Canada says products containing the dye have been used on the skin, on mucous membranes inside the nose, mouth or vagina, on open wounds, or on the nipple of a nursing mother to treat oral thrush in infants.

There was only one non-prescription drug product containing gentian violet marketed in Canada that is known to used by nursing mothers, Health Canada states.

“The manufacturer has voluntarily stopped marketing this product in Canada and its product licence has been cancelled.”

More information at: http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/index-eng.php

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wetaskiwin shelter will close early after assaults, other problems

Mayor Tyler Gandam said mental health, addictions overshadowing shelter’s purpose

New intersection coming for Hwy. #2A near grain terminal

G3 Canada will begin new intersection in 2020

Franchises a great option for business-minded

BMO expert gives brief look at 2020

County of Wetaskiwin transfer donated land to Scouts Canada body

A.L. Siler originally asked county to hold land in trust in 1972

Good Neighbour award presented at Lakedell Ag Society AGM

Meryln Fontaine Memorial presented to Tammy Southern

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

Portrait of the Coastal GasLink, a pipeline to divide a nation

In mid-February, 46 per cent of the pipeline route had been cleared

Alberta ends master agreement with doctors, new rules to be in place April 1

The current master agreement with physicians ends March 31

Alberta rail conductor fired for social media posts awarded money, but not reinstatement

Arbitrator Richard Hornung says that he agreed with the Teamsters union

Kids exposed to household cleaners as newborns more likely to get asthma: study

Air fresheners, plug-in deodorizers, antimicrobial hand sanitizers and oven cleaners were the worst culprits

Burger King breaks the mould with new advertising campaign

The company is known for irreverent ad campaigns

PHOTOS: RCMP call on kids to name latest police puppy recruits

This year’s theme is the letter ‘N,’ and 13 German shephards must be named

Most Read