Tea Tree Industry Requests Retraction

Recent reports alleging that lavender and tea tree oil may be causing breast growth in young boys has little substance, is a product of poor reasoning, and is cast into doubt on many grounds, states the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association (ATTIA).

After consultation with numerous research scientists by Christopher Dean, Chairman of the Australian Tea Tree Oil Industry Technical and Safety Committee, the group requested a retraction from the Journal of New England Medicine in relation to an article it had published, titled "Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oil."

According to ATTIA, many researchers and scientists examined this article and raised concern about the poor methodology and conclusions that reportedly were not supported by science. In the group's response statement to the industry, it claimed that "When such science is amplified by publication in a respected journal and the media beats up the story, it has damaging consequences out of all proportion to the facts."

ATTIA also added that this article was uncritically reported around the world, which caused alarm, commercial impacts and fear.

The tea tree industry reports it has a long history of documenting all adverse events reported, and two of the largest companies selling retail products, with global sales of over 150 million units of tea tree products over three decades, have never had an instance of this side effect reported.

This published paper is said to consist of two separate parts that have no scientific connection. Part one describes three clinical case studies of prepubertal gynecomastia. Part two describes a cell culture assay of the estrogenic activity of lavender oil and tea tree oil. According to ATTIA, a scientific basis would require that dosages and routes of administration could be related to each other quantitatively.

Unpublished skin penetration studies for tea tree oil conducted at the University of Queensland by Sheree Cross, PhD, claimed to show that only extremely small amounts of three of the over 100 components found in tea tree oil have been found to penetrate the surface of the skin so that any oestrogen receptor activity by tea tree oil in vitro is not relevant to topical application of tea tree products. This may be true with lavender as well, claims ATTIA.

According to the group, this publication is unscientific. The conclusion stated in the summary is not supported by the cell culture studies. The authors show no curiosity at all about the difficulties in attempting to connect the cell culture studies with the case studies scientifically and a retraction is warranted.

To view the complete reponse statement and request for retraction, click here.


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