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Colour Dyes: EU Environmental and Health Concerns addressed at Queen’s

Health and environmental concerns relating to the use of colour dyes will be examined at a major EU-funded conference taking place at Queen’s University Belfast this week.

Epidemiological evidence exists to indicate regular and long term use of hair dyes for women can be associated with the development of bladder cancer. During dyeing processes, up to 40 per cent of the dyes are not consumed by the substrate to which they are applied and they then find their ways into wastewaters and are flushed into the environment.

Researchers from QUESTOR, Queen’s Environmental Centre and Europe's only Industry/University Co-operative Research Centre, will be reporting on the latest results from a four year EU-funded flagship research project into reducing the impact of such dyes on our health and the environment.

Known as SOPHIED (Sustainable Bioprocesses for the European Colour Industries), project researchers at Queen’s and their 27 European partners have been actively developing new durable bioprocesses destined to modernise the European Colour Industry.

Explaining the importance of the research to both industry and the general public, Ciaran Prunty, from QUESTOR’s Applied Technology Unit said: “Colour dyes are not something that often crop up in many people’s list of environmental and health concerns. However, almost all of the clothes and fabric that surround us have been treated with colour dyes and many of us also use dyes to colour our hair.

“The global dyestuff market produces around 1.15 million tonnes per year and generates sales of almost €5 million. It is heavily influenced by global production trends such as the shift in production of textiles to low labour cost countries. Indeed, Chinese dyestuff production now accounts for half of the total production in the world.

“For EU residents therefore, research projects such as SOPHIED are vital in providing intelligence in order to help reduce the implications of toxicity and other issues. Traditionally weaker than other sectors in research and development, the results from QUESTOR and the other partner institutions, which will be discussed at this week’s conference, will provide a shot in the arm for the dyestuff industry and pave the way for the use and development of greener technologies.”

Within the SOPHIED project, QUESTOR has a significant role in the delivery of the development of new bioremediation technology for decolouring dye wastewater.

Further information on the SPOHIED project can be found at while further information on the work which takes place at QUESTOR can be found at

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
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