Cri de Coeur eco shoe and bag designer, Gina Ferraraccio, dishes up the straight story on the toxic faux leather drama;
It’s been a rough month for H&M first trashgate, then cottongate, and now the chain is among a group of the nation’s top retailers involved in a settlement to remove faux leather handbags from shelves in California, after an investigation by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found disturbingly high levels of lead in the bags. Other retailers named in the investigation include Target, Macy’s, Forever21 and Kohl’s.
So why is the CEH finding lead in women’s handbags?
It turns out they’re made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a cheap faux leather material. A known carcinogen since 1966, PVC is very dangerous when manufactured, as it requires large amounts of chlorine (two-thirds of the world’s chlorine supply) with dioxin as a byproduct. Other toxins involved in its production are lead, which damages brain development and impairs cognitive ability; cadmium, a neurotoxin and carcinogen; and organotins, which suppress the endocrine and immune systems. PVC also contains phthalates, another known carcinogen linked to asthma and reproductive problems.
Eek, how to avoid these nasty chemicals and toxins?
The study by the CEH recommends avoiding all faux leather so what’s a cruelty-free fashionista to do? We’re already used to scrutinizing our food labels for animal-derived and unhealthy ingredients, now we just have to double check the label on our accessories too! Polyurethane, or PU, is another leather-alternative material that not only looks amazing, but it breathes well and is super durable. PU contains none of the volatile compounds that are found in PVC-based products. The production of the highest quality PU uses environmentally friendly raw materials, and the finished product doesn’t emit toxins. Many eco-vegan shoe designers are now using other eco materials and organic cottons and canvas to make their chic and body-friendly shoes.
How do you make sure you’re not buying toxic PVC-infested products?
PVC can be used to make cosmetic bottles, pets’ chew toys, construction pipes, plastic packaging, food wrap, babies’ toys and teething rings, computer parts, etc. Check to see when you’re purchasing if they’re labeled as #3 plastic. If so, they’re PVC, which also means they’re not recyclable. So all that PVC will end up in landfills, where the lead and toxins will gradually leak into the environment. For more info on safe everyday products, check out PVC: The Poison Plastic.
On handbags, accessories, and clothing, check the fiber content label. Make sure it’s made of PU or some other textile material no PVC or vinyl. And remember, leather is no better, environmentally or in the quest to avoid cancer. Read all about that here.
Shoes are a little trickier to know if they’re PVC-safe, since footwear is not required by law to state the content, only whether it’s leather or synthetic, so do some research into the brands you’re considering. Any company that claims to be eco or sustainable should avoid PVC. Cri de Coeur uses 100% high quality PU in all linings, with uppers of PU, recycled ultraseuede or textiles.
A general rule the cheaper a plastic or faux leather product is, the more likely it is to contain harmful materials. PVC is so widely used because it’s inexpensive. And while you may save a buck now, the long-term detriments to your own health and to future generations’ health just aren’t worth it.
So forgo those three or four pairs of shoes from Forever21 and Payless, and save up for Cri de Coeur! Good for you, the planet and animals, all our footwear is lead-free, so you can rest easy knowing your feet aren’t absorbing harmful toxins as you’re rocking some hot cruelty-free fashion. Plus we’re currently in development on a line of Cri de Coeur handbags, which will be available to purchase starting this summer using the same top quality materials!
Want discount codes for many eco, vegan, and organic designers (like our faves; Cri de Coeur and OlsenHaus) that won’t kill animals, the planet, or you? Click here for GirlieGirlArmy EXCLUSIVE discount codes! Want a great, big list of eco and vegan-friendly shoe and bag designers? Look no further than this huge list of compassionate shopping love!
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