Dangerous Chemicals in Shein Clothes Breach EU Rules

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by KnowESG
Picture showing that clothes from online fashion retailer Shein contain dangerous chemicals that violate EU rules.

Shein, a Chinese fast-fashion powerhouse, has been accused of plagiarism, and a British documentary showed that workers in some Shein factories in China are paid only three cents per garment and have to work 18-hour shifts. Now it's time to talk about the clothes themselves. Greenpeace Germany analysed several of them and discovered that many of the outfits sold by Shein contained hazardous substances.

To show this, Greenpeace Germany bought 47 garments from the Shein platform and had them tested for pollution in an independent lab.

It discovered phthalate levels of more than 100,000 milligrammes per kilogramme in five boots and shoes, although the European Chemicals Regulation (REACH) standard is 1,000 milligrammes per kilogramme. The greatest phthalate concentration was found in black snow boots, at 685,000 milligrammes per kilogramme, which is 685 times the legal limit.

Overall, REACH limits were broken in 7 of the items tested, which is 15%. Dangerous chemicals were found "at levels of concern" in 15 of the items, which is 32%. Shein claims to have removed the products and begun an investigation since then.

Since Shein sells directly online through its app and social media, many transactions happen without going through the government. Greenpeace is therefore calling for better controls and more far-reaching guidelines.

In a press release, Viola Wohlgemuth, a resource protection expert at Greenpeace, said, "The EU must enforce its laws to protect the environment and consumers for online retailers as well and make REACH much stricter."

“Chemicals that are potentially carcinogenic when worn in Germany or elsewhere are even more dangerous for the workers in Shein's factories in China. Dangerous chemicals must be banned by law from all textile production,” adds Wohlgemuth.

The problem goes back to the ultra fast fashion model that Shein operates on: Every day, the online retailer offers up to 6,000 new designs online. In comparison, competitor H&M only managed about 1.4 per cent of the volume in the USA in a comparable period of four months, and Shein produces about three times as fast as fast fashion pioneer Zara—namely, within three to seven days.

“This new ultra fast fashion business model takes overconsumption and waste of resources to the extreme. This creates a huge amount of environmentally damaging textile waste in the Global South, in addition to environmental damage in the producing countries,” says Greenpeace.

“Fast fashion is already completely incompatible with a climate-friendly future; the new trend of ultra fast fashion is fueling the climate crisis and nature destruction so aggressively that it must be stopped immediately by legislation,” concludes Wohlgemuth.

When asked about the allegations, Shein responded with a (rather general) statement: “Shein takes product safety very seriously. Our suppliers are required to comply with the controls and standards we have put in place, including chemical controls lists and standards that are aligned with Europe’s REACH as well as CPSIA, CPSA, and CA65 from the US, amongst other regulations.”

“We work closely with international third-party testing agencies such as Intertek, SGS, BV, and TUV to regularly carry out testing to ensure suppliers' compliance with our product safety standards. In the past year, we have conducted more than 300,000 chemical safety tests with these agencies,” adds Shein.

"When we learn of a claim against one of our products, we immediately remove the product(s) from our site as a precautionary measure while we conduct our investigations. If it turns out that the product doesn't meet the rules, we won't hesitate to follow up with the company that made it. Based on what Greenpeace's social media account says, we can also confirm that we removed the products mentioned right away while we look into what happened. Shein is dedicated to always providing consumers with safe and reliable products,” ends the statement.

Source: Fashion United

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