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)

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

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

(File)
One death and 82 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

1,981 total cases, 609 are active and those individuals are on isolation

Interior Health has set up a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar doctors and mayor urge residents to take COVID-19 seriously as cases are confirmed in the city

“Your doctors would like you to understand we do now have Covid cases here”

Youth Climate Corps members April Gariepy, Summer Monkman and Linn Murray at work in West Arm Provincial Park, fall 2020. Photo: Submitted
Youth Climate Corps members April Gariepy, Summer Monkman and Linn Murray at work in West Arm Provincial Park. fall 2020. Photo submitted
VIDEO: Kootenay youth climate group works to protect Nelson’s water supply

Youth Climate Corps members spent five weeks thinning forest in West Arm Park

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
First long-term care resident dies from COVID-19 in Interior Health

Man in his 80s dies following virus outbreak at Mountainview Village

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read