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

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Nelson climate strike packs downtown to demand action

An inter-generational crowd staged a ‘die-in’ as part of the global strike Friday

Nelson’s Cedar Grove Estates affordable housing site to receive $3.2 million in renos

The project was made public during the Nelson CARES annual general meeting

Kootenay Lake ferry to shut down Saturday afternoon

Service to resume Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m.

Mystery illness killing Kootenay bees

Samples being sent to laboratories for analysis

Woman stabbed in downtown Nelson

Victim is in hospital, suspect is in police custody

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Takaya, B.C.’s intriguing lone wolf, seen eating seal and howling away on Discovery Island

Fun facts about Takaya the wolf, like his a 36-hour tour around Chatham, Discovery Islands

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

Most Read