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Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association of NZ Inc and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-082

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association of NZ of Auckland

Dated

29th October 2007

Number

2007-082

Programme

Close Up

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up – discussed the severe allergic reactions two women had experienced as a result of a chemical used in their hair dye – focused on a chemical named paraphenylenediamine – allegedly unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – standard did not apply – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – no inaccurate or misleading statements – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – broadcaster not required to seek comment from the industry body – not unfair – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on TV One’s Close Up programme, broadcast on 25 May 2007 at 7pm, discussed the severe allergic reactions two women had experienced as a result of a chemical used in their hair dye. The presenter reported that allergy specialists “say the more you use some substances, the greater the risk you’ll experience a reaction”.

[2]   The item included interviews with the two women and also comments from a trichologist (hair and scalp specialist). The trichologist stated that in the last three to five years there had been a gradual increase in people’s sensitivity to hair colour.

[3]   The report focused on a chemical named paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which, it said, was found in over 60% of hair dyes on the market. The reporter noted that the European Union (EU) had banned 50 hair dye ingredients in 2007, but PPD was not on that list. The trichologist said that people who had “a hair colour every four to six weeks for 16 years, they are in the high risk category” for an allergic reaction to PPD.

[4]   The presenter stated that there were herbal alternatives for home hair dyeing that did not include PPD, and added that the trichologist said that he knew of companies now working on similar alternatives for the hair salon sector.

Complaint

[5]   The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association (the CTFA) made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair.

[6]   Looking at Standard 4 (balance), the CTFA stated that the broadcaster had not sought or presented the viewpoint of the supplier industry body on the issues raised in the programme. This was despite the CTFA having a website with a large amount of related information and contact details, it said. The programme had not put forward any information about the level of allergic reactions relative to the population, the CTFA wrote, despite this information being available from the industry organisation.

[7]   The complainant asserted that the trichologist featured in the item had a vested interest in promoting his own products which did not contain PPD. It said:

The industry believes that all products, regardless of inclusion of PPD as an ingredient, are safe and that there is no reason for concern when a product includes PPD or any other ingredient.

[8]   Failure to obtain industry comment on the issues discussed in the programme meant that the broadcaster had failed to meet the requirement for balance, the CTFA said.

[9]   Turning to consider Standard 5 (accuracy), the complainant stated that the item had relied on information supplied by a trichologist who did not present all of the facts and did not reveal “his bias against the hair colour products”. It contended that a number of facts had been omitted from or misrepresented in the programme, including:

  • The programme insinuated that PPD should have been banned by the EU, and it did not mention that the EU did not even consider banning PPD due to its low risk and restricted levels of inclusion in products.
  • The programme indicated that there was a greater risk of an allergic reaction with greater use of products containing PPD, without having any documented facts to back this up.
  • The programme did not point out that all manufacturers recommended patch testing for both salons and home applications, and full instructions on the correct procedures were provided with all products.
  • The programme indicated that the level of sensitivity had been increasing over recent years and that the cause was PPD products, but there were no facts to back up this claim. Industry figures showed that the number of incidents related to sensitivity had not increased in relation to sales, and in fact had decreased.
  • The programme should have stated that the two cases of allergic reaction were incredibly rare in terms of their seriousness and such strong reactions numbered less than 1 in 10 million treatments for hair colour per annum.

[10]   In terms of fairness, the CTFA said that the programme was one-sided because it did not present the industry view, and because it did not reveal that the trichologist had a vested interest in presenting mainstream hair products containing PPD as harmful. It contended that the programme should have informed viewers that the trichologist had his own range of hair colour products that he promoted as natural and free of PPD.

Standards

[11]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under the standards in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice nominated by the complainant. These provide:

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[12]   TVNZ noted that PPD had been banned in several countries including Germany, France and Sweden because of the severe allergic reactions it could cause, and quoted from the CTFA website which said that “hair colouring products can cause allergic skin reactions in rare cases”. Further, it said, the substance was listed as the third most common ingredient causing contact dermatitis by the Auckland Allergy Clinic whose website said:

In some European countries, PPD was banned because it was thought to be too hazardous. The regulations of the [European Economic Community], however, have allowed up to 6% PPD in hair dyes.

In the consumer, PPD produces acute dermatitis that involves the scalp, eyelids, face and hairline and may extend to include the neck and upper portion of the trunk, but may spread to involve the whole body. In the hairdresser the most common region affected is the hand, but other exposed areas like the arms and face may be affected. Once the dye becomes fully oxidised it is no longer allergenic; thus dyed hair does not cause dermatitis.

[13]   TVNZ also noted that the British Medical Journal had stated recently that “allergic reactions to hair dyes are increasing as more and younger people dye their hair…more than two thirds of hair dyes currently contain [PPD] and other related agents”.

[14]   The broadcaster did not agree that the allergic reaction of two women to PPD was a controversial issue of public importance for the purposes of Standard 4 (balance). Their allergic reaction, it said, was not “controversial” and even the industry perspective was that it occurred “in rare cases”. In TVNZ’s view, no issue of balance arose.

[15]   Looking at Standard 5 (accuracy), the broadcaster considered the individual points made by the CTFA.

The programme insinuated that PPD should have been banned by the EU, and it did not mention that PPD was not even considered for banning due to its low risk and restricted levels of inclusion in products.

[16]   TVNZ pointed out that the item had clearly stated that 50 ingredients had been banned by the EU and that PPD was not one of those chemicals.

The programme indicated that there was a greater risk of an allergic reaction with greater use of products containing PPD, without having any documented facts to back this up.

[17]   The broadcaster quoted from a British Medical Journal article about PPD allergy from hair dyes which said:

Dermatologists report anecdotally that the frequency of positive reactions to PPD on patch testing is increasing. This was confirmed in a recent study in London, which found a doubling in frequency over six years from 7.1% in a clinic for adults with contact dermatitis.

…In the same London clinic from 1965 and 1975 between five and 11 patients with non-occupational PPD allergy were seen each year. More recently this figure has consistently exceeded 40 such patients annually.

The programme did not point out that all manufacturers recommended patch testing

[18]   TVNZ maintained that this information was included in the item.

The programme indicated that the level of sensitivity had been increasing over recent years and that the cause was PPD products, but there were no facts to back up this claim. Industry figures showed that the number of incidents related to sensitivity had not increased in relation to sales, and in fact had decreased.

[19]   TVNZ referred back to the quote from the British Medical Journal (see paragraph 17) and it also noted that the Auckland Allergy Clinic website stated that “sensitization to hair dye may gradually develop with repeated exposure”.

The programme should have stated that the two cases of allergic reaction were incredibly rare in terms of their seriousness and such strong reactions numbered less than 1 in 10 million treatments for hair colour per annum.

[20]   While the incidence of sensitivity might be rare, TVNZ said, Close Up had found two women who had the severe allergic reaction in New Zealand, which had a population of 4.5 million people, and it did not believe they were the only two people in the country who were affected. In the broadcaster’s view, the item did not claim that the allergy was pervasive, rather that the allergy to PPD could occur even in people who had used the substance in the past. The item had also included comments from a woman who had dyed her hair with no negative repercussions, it wrote.

[21]    TVNZ found that Standard 5 had not been breached.

[22]   Turning to consider Standard 6 (fairness), the broadcaster stated that the trichologist “used as an expert in the item” did have a business that produced some hair products. However, it said, the company did not manufacture any hair colorants or hair colour products. Accordingly, TVNZ believed that he did not have “a vested interest in presenting mainstream hair products as harmful” as alleged by the complainant.

[23]   In the broadcaster’s view, it was clear that the segment did not deal unfairly with any of the participants and it found that no breach of Standard 6 had occurred. It therefore declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[24]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, the CTFA referred its complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[25]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 4 (balance)

[26]   Standard 4 requires that balance be provided when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. On this occasion, the item complained about discussed the severe allergic reactions two women had experienced as a result of a chemical used in their hair dye, and the potential risks associated with PPD products.

[27]   In the Authority’s view, the item did not amount to the discussion of a controversial issue. The item focused on the personal stories of two women who had experienced severe allergic reactions to hair dye, and the fact that PPD products can cause such reactions in some individuals is not controversial, or indeed disputed by the complainant. In these circumstances, the Authority concludes that the requirement for balance did not apply to the broadcast. It declines to uphold the balance complaint.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[28]   The complainant has alleged that several aspects of the programme breached Standard 5 (accuracy). The Authority considers each allegation in turn below.

The use of a trichologist as an expert, when he had a vested interest in presenting mainstream hair colour products as harmful because he had his own range of hair colour products

[29]   The CTFA’s first concern was about the use of a trichologist as an expert when, it alleged, he had a vested interest in presenting mainstream hair products as dangerous. In response, TVNZ stated that the trichologist did not manufacture a hair dye product, and therefore he was not biased as the complainant suggested.

[30]   The Authority notes that the complainant has not provided any evidence to support its allegation that the trichologist was biased, or that he had a vested interest in promoting mainstream hair products as dangerous. It accepts TVNZ’s evidence that the trichologist does not manufacture a hair dye product. Therefore the Authority has no reason to conclude that the trichologist was not a reliable source of information. It finds that Standard 5 was not breached in this respect.

The programme insinuated that PPD should have been banned by the EU, and it did not mention that PPD was not even considered for banning due to its low risk and restricted levels of inclusion in products.

[31]   The Authority disagrees with the complainant that the programme insinuated that the EU should have banned PPD. The reporter noted that PPD was not on the list of chemicals banned by the EU this year. While the complainant has interpreted the tone of the reporter’s voice as being one of surprise, the Authority considers that her tone was ambiguous and could have been interpreted in a number of ways. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the programme would not have made a definite impression on viewers such as to be misleading or inaccurate. It declines to uphold this part of the complaint.

The programme indicated that there was a greater risk of an allergic reaction with greater use of products containing PPD, without having any documented facts to back this up.

[32]   In the complainant’s view, the item indicated that there was a greater risk of an allergic reaction the more an individual used products containing PPD. The Authority considers that when the programme made statements about increased sensitisation to hair dye, viewers would have understood that it was referring to hair dyes containing PPD. The item contained the following statements:

“When it comes to chemicals in hair dyes, allergy specialists say the more you use some substances the greater the risk you’ll experience a reaction.”

“[People who had] a hair colour every four to six weeks for 16 years, they are in the high risk category” [for an allergic reaction]”.

[33]   The Authority notes the evidence provided by TVNZ from the Auckland Allergy Clinic, which states on its website that “sensitisation to hair dye may gradually develop with repeated exposure”. The Authority considers that the Auckland Allergy Clinic is a credible and reliable source of information about allergic reactions to chemical substances such as PPD. Accordingly, it finds that the statements in the item which implied that a greater sensitisation to hair dye could develop with repeated use were not misleading or inaccurate. It declines to uphold this part of the complaint.

The programme did not point out that all manufacturers recommended patch testing.

[34]   The complainant alleged that the programme did not point out that manufacturers recommended patch testing of hair dyes before they were applied. The Authority disagrees; the programme explicitly stated that manufacturers recommended patch testing of hair dyes before every application. It also pointed out that consumers and hairdressers did not always adhere to the recommendation. In these circumstances, the Authority declines to uphold this part of the accuracy complaint.

The programme should have stated that the two cases of allergic reaction were incredibly rare in terms of their seriousness and such strong reactions numbered less than 1 in 10 million treatments for hair colour per annum.

[35] The complainant argued that the item should have stated that the two cases of allergic reaction were incredibly rare in terms of their seriousness and such strong reactions numbered less than 1 in 10 million treatments for hair colour per annum. However, the Authority agrees with TVNZ that the item did not claim that allergic reactions were anything other than rare. Rather, the item merely pointed out that the allergy to PPD could occur in some cases, even in people who had used the substance in the past.

[36]   In the Authority’s view, it was not necessary for the programme to give actual statistics about the occurrence of such reactions, because viewers would not have been left with the impression that they occurred regularly. It considers that viewers would not have been misled in this respect, and therefore it finds that Standard 5 was not breached.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[37]   The complainant argued that the broadcaster had breached Standard 6 (fairness) because the CTFA should have been contacted for comment, as it is the industry body that represents hair dye manufacturers (who were referred to in the programme). The Authority disagrees. It observes that the item explicitly stated that manufacturers put safety directions on their packaging – although these were not always followed by hairdressers and consumers – and it was clear that manufacturers were legally allowed to include PPD in their products.

[38]   Further, the Authority has not found any inaccurate or misleading statements that could have been corrected if a representative from the CTFA had been contacted for the industry perspective.

[39]   Accordingly, the Authority finds that the broadcaster was not obliged to seek comment from the CTFA in order to meet the requirement for fairness in Standard 6. It does not uphold the fairness complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
29 October 2007

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1.            The CTFA’s formal complaint – 21 June 2007
2.           TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 23 July 2007
3.           The CTFA’s referral to the Authority – 13 August 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 September 2007