Sunday, September 28, 2008

Toxic shoes

1.7 million leather shoes manufactured in Italy by Chinese companies were found to contain toxic levels of chromium hexavalent. It's not clear whether the chromium (Cr +6) was used in the tanning process in China, or in Italy. But investigators suspect that the toxic leather was imported illegally from China and then used by Chinese manufacturers based in Italy.

In order to take advantage of the added value provided by the "Made in Italy" origin of their products, since a few years Chinese producers of leather goods have set up dozens of sweatshops in the Prato area, in Tuscany, exploiting Chinese immigrants. This investigation revealed that not only working conditions in such sweatshops are appalling, but also the quality of their products would never meet the standards set by the leather industry in Italy.

It has been well documented that chromium in the oxidation state six is an established human carcinogen, associated with lung cancers. It causes mutations of the DNA chain, and people who come into direct contact with leather containing chromiun hexavalent can develop severe eczema.

Now, if toxic Chinese leather found its way into Italy, one can only wonder how safe are the leather goods sold in Hong Kong, given that most of them are imported directly from China.

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