Unacceptable Chemical Levels Detected in Tests of Leather Gloves

josie lynn richards/CC BY 2.0

Although the subject of wearing fur or leather divides many in the green community, as long as people eat meat, the skin of animals remains a source of a potentially durable, natural material for making clothing and accessories. But in a recent review by German eco-friendly consumer protection magazine OekoTest, only two of seventeen gloves tested passed. Thirteen were rated unsatisfactory, and two as inadequate.

The good news first: one of the gloves found acceptable was from H&M, a global consumer fashion concern. The other pair of passing gloves came from a high-end German glove manufacturer Bernd Vojtisek. Although natural tanning processes are available, a common argument against using them -- according to Rico Wappler, a glove manufacturer who uses the natural process, in OekoTest -- is that the chemical process produces a more consistent appearance; in the fashion industry, irregularities are seen as flaws.

As a result of using chemical processes for tanning, gloves tested contained chemicals like:

  • Chromium, which can cause allergic reactions, gets into gloves both from tanning agents and dyes
  • Short-chain Chloroparaffins, which are considered carcinogenic and are banned in Europe -- but still legal once in the gloves, in this case imported from China
  • Lead, up to 2.8 grams/kg in one model
  • Aniline, a carcinogen which can be released when dyes used are not high quality

Several manufacturers reacted properly to the news, pulling product that they claim also fails to meet their internal standards (where are their testers?). The New York style house Capelli , for example, has issued apologies and offered a refund on gloves contaminated with chemicals.

Only one manufacturer has failed to train management on media reaction policy, demanding that OekoTest not publish the test results on their product. OekoTest, naturally, declined to meet that demand, and has made all leather glove test results available online (German).

More on Natural Leather:
Can Leather Be a TreeHugger-Friendly Material?
Best of Ecouterre: 7 Eco-Friendly Leather Alternatives
3 Ways Leather Tanneries are Greening Up Their Processes

Tags: Accessories | Clothing | Germany | Sustainable Fabrics

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