Purple proxy in peril: students report shortage of gentian violet alternative

Alternative dye not available for all frosh

The Engineering Society was unable to provide all students with alternative purple dye in December.
Journal File Photo

Purpling, a tradition where first-year Engineering students dye their jackets purple, was hampered in December due to a shortage of an alternative to gentian violet.

Over the summer, Health Canada issued an advisory against exposure to gentian violet, saying it increases the risk of cancer. After the June 12 advisory, the Engineering Society found a replacement in time for Orientation week, a purple alcohol-based body paint called ProAiir Professional.

In an interview with The Journal, Morgan McPhee, Eng ’23, said several groups of first-year students were unable to follow through with the jacket “purpling” tradition due to the shortage of the alternative dye in December.

McPhee said he first found out there was a shortage of purple dyes when he tried to buy some at jacket pickup. The shortage of alternative dye wasn’t anticipated, McPhee said, but there were several frosh groups who didn’t get enough dye.

“I know two frosh groups didn't get any [alternative purple dye],” McPhee said.

In a written statement to The Journal, Engineering Society President Delaney Benoit and Sidney Picco, Campus Equipment Outfitters head manager, said the Engineering Society tested numerous options to find an alternative purple dye to sell to interested students.

“Upon learning of the carcinogenic effects of gentian, the Engineering Society immediately began working on providing students with a safe alternative,” she wrote.

According to Benoit and Picco, the same amount of the alternative purple dye was ordered as previous years.

“Unfortunately, larger than typical uptake of the alternative and students purchasing in bulk resulted in some groups not having the alternative available for purchase.”

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