Christchurch attacks used to market essential oil products to school

Milford School.
Milford School. Photo credit: Google Maps

A representative for a US essential oils company reportedly used the Christchurch terror attacks to market their products to an Auckland school.

Emails released to RNZ under the Official Information Act show a doTERRA representative marketing the company's products to Milford Primary School principal Sue Cattell.

Conversations between the school and the representative took place over a series of weeks both before and after the Christchurch shootings.

In one email, the representative says doTERRA had been making blends of the oils for the Christchurch community after the March 15 terror attack.

"This is also something we can help any Milford teachers or parents with, especially the Muslim parents, but even Kiwi parents struggling mentally to switch off," the representative said before asking how best to get their message to parents and teachers.

doTERRA told Newshub there had been no directive from the company to use the Christchurch shooting as a marketing opportunity and it had previously sent unbranded oils to be distributed in Christchurch as a donation after the attack.

"We did this as we wanted these to be gifts to the community and our representatives were instructed not to sell any of these products," a spokesperson said.

In a previous email before the attack, the representative told Cattell they had been offering parents and new entrants a smell at the school's back entrance and had been seeing instant results.

They said the oils had been a hit with their family.

"This has been life-changing for my family's health - my son no longer uses his inhaler for asthma and just applies the respiratory blend of eucalyptus and Peppermint Roll on blend to his chest," the representative said.

The school was also offered deals for using the oil, and ended up signing up for $2800 worth of products.

The doTERRA spokesperson stressed the purchasing of products was the decision of the school's management.

Cattell said in a March 14 school newsletter, the day before the attack, that the Parent Teacher Association was supporting the school in getting diffusers with doTERRA essential oils for every classroom.

She wrote that some classrooms had trialled the oils in 2018 and "there was a notable difference in behaviour and illness reduction".

"Shortly, every class will have a blend called OnGuard which supports immune function and a blend of Wild Orange which is uplifting for mood and energy.

"We hope to see wellness increase for everyone. We will hold a parent information session on this initiative later this term."

But on the same day the diffusers began being used in classrooms, RNZ reports Cattell made the decision to halt their rollout.

It came after the school received concerns from a parent about negative effects of the oils on students who suffer allergies or have asthma.

The school's Board of Trustees chair told RNZ that there were good intentions behind placing the diffusers in the classrooms and the school community had been advised. But they admitted there could have been more engagement.

doTERRA has guidance around the use of the products in public places on its website.

Newshub has approached Milford Primary School for comment.