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HAMBURG – Products from Chinese fast fashion brand Shein contained up to twice the level of hazardous chemicals allowed under EU legislation, in tests carried out by Greenpeace Germany. Product tests on 47 Shein products found seven of them (15 per cent), contained hazardous chemicals that break EU regulatory limits, with five of these products breaking the limits by 100 per cent or more. According to the tests, 15 of the products contained hazardous chemicals at levels of concern (32 per cent).

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Greenpeace Germany bought 42 items, including garments and footwear for men, women, children and infants, from Shein websites in Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, and 5 items from a pop-up store in Munich, Germany. The products were sent to independent laboratory BUI for chemical analysis.

The findings – which include very high levels of phthalates in shoes and formaldehyde in a baby girl’s dress – prove, according to Greenpeace Germany, Shein’s “careless attitude towards environmental and human health risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals, in pursuit of profit.”

The report claims the company, which is headquartered in Nanjing, China, is breaking EU environmental regulations on chemicals and risking the health of consumers and the workers at the suppliers that make the products. 

Viola Wohlgemuth, Toxics and Circular economy campaigner with Greenpeace Germany said: “Greenpeace Germany’s findings show that the use of hazardous chemicals underpins Shein’s ultra-fast fashion business model, which is the opposite of being future-proof. Shein products containing hazardous chemicals are flooding European markets and breaking regulations – which are not being enforced by the authorities.

“But it’s the workers in Shein’s suppliers, the people in surrounding communities and the environment in China that bear the brunt of Shein’s hazardous chemical addiction. At its core, the linear business model of fast fashion is totally incompatible with a climate-friendly future – but the emergence of ultra-fast fashion is further accelerating the climate and environmental catastrophe and must be stopped in its tracks through binding legislation. Alternatives to buying new must become the new norm.”

“Greenpeace is calling for the EU to enforce its laws on hazardous chemicals – which are a basic requirement for achieving a circular textiles economy and the end of fast fashion, as set out in the EU’s own Textiles Strategy.” added Wohlgemuth. “But the EU’s proposals also need to take on the inhuman system of exploitation and destruction by ultra-fast fashion that should have no place in any industry in the 21st century, by holding companies fully responsible for environmental and social exploitation in their supply chains and the impacts from fashion waste. This also needs to be urgently addressed through a global treaty, similar to the recently agreed UNEA plastics treaty that is currently being discussed, to finally tackle the giant fashion footprint.”

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