GOOD OIL UNDER FIRE
By ZOE SATHERLEY
LYNDA DEAN shakes her head in disbelief that the European Union (EU) is considering a ban on medicinal tea-tree oil.
The EU commission has raised concerns tea-tree oil causes adverse skin reactions in some people.
If implemented, the EU ban could decimate the Northern Rivers' $40 million tea-tree industry and the Deans.
Lynda Dean, together with husband Christopher Dean, has a financial interest in Australia's largest tea-tree oil products manufacturer and exporter, TP Health Ltd (formerly Thursday Plantation) at Ballina.
They set up the nation's first large-scale tea-tree plantation in the 1970s.
Now they run an $18 million export business selling products to 30 countries. Yesterday, Mr Dean led a team of Australian industry representatives to urgent meetings in London with 80 people from cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies, who use tea tree oil in their products, concerned about the impact of the possible EU ban.
His lobbying team will fly to Brussels to meet the EU commission later this week.
A concerned Mrs Dean said the EU's move to ban tea-tree oil could potentially spiral out of control to include markets in the US and Canada.
She said clinical trials have proven teatree oil to be anti-bac- terial and anti-fungal.
Her company got wind of the proposed ban about six months ago and has been meeting with government and industry representatives to plan a response ever since.
The EU concerns stemmed from a handful of Danish citizens who complained after getting an adverse skin reaction from a particular batch of tea-tree oil which was not manufactured in Australia, Mrs Dean said.
Their complaints led to the EU commission investigation and a threat to ban sales of tea-tree products containing more than 1 per cent of tea- tree oil ? considered to be a minimum therapeutic level.
The EU commission has called on the industry to provide comprehensive scientific research and extensive animal testing to prove tea-tree oil is safe to use.
"They are not satisfied with the evidence of over 70 years of safe human use in Australia and countless clinical trials proving both its effectiveness and safety," Mrs Dean said.
"We have sold 2.5 million units of teatree oil over 20 years with only 19 recorded instances of any kind of skin irritation. It would cost the industry around $3 million to undertake the kind of testing required."