A report from Greenpeace alleges Shein has a “business model based on hazardous chemicals and environmental destruction” after it found 15% of 47 products that were tested contained toxic chemicals that break EU regulatory limits, with five of these products breaking the limits by 100% or more.
The Greenpeace report said according to the tests a total of 15 of the Shein products contain hazardous chemicals at levels of concern (32%).
Greenpeace Germany bought 42 items including garments and footwear from several of Shein’s European websites as well as a pop-up in Munich, Germany. The products were sent to an independent laboratory BUI for chemical analysis.
Greenpeace said the findings indicated “very high levels of phthalates in shoes and formaldehyde in a baby girl’s dress.”
Greenpeace argues Shein has taken a “careless attitude towards environmental and human health risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals, in pursuit of profit [and] is breaking EU environmental regulations on chemicals and risking the health of consumers and the workers at the suppliers that make the products.”
EU regulations on hazardous chemicals in imported products set strict concentration limits under the REACH Regulation for a range of hazardous substances in clothing, accessories and shoes sold in Europe. A loophole which excluded imported products from these requirements was closed after evidence from Greenpeace’s Detox My Fashion campaign showed how the use of hazardous chemicals by textiles suppliers in Global South countries was also leading to water pollution in the EU. Hazardous chemicals in clothes are also a major barrier to textiles recycling.
“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.” said Viola Wohlgemuth, toxics and circular economy campaigner with Greenpeace Germany. “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.”
A spokesperson for Shein told Just Style the company 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 which are aligned to 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 to our product safety standards. In the past year, we have conducted more than 300,000 chemical safety tests with these agencies.
“Upon learning of any claim against our products, we immediately remove the product(s) from our site as a matter of caution whilst conducting our investigations. If non-compliance is verified, we will not hesitate to take appropriate follow-up action with the supplier of said product. We can also confirm, based on the information available through the social media account of Greenpeace, that we have immediately removed the products mentioned pending investigation.
“Shein is dedicated to always providing consumers with safe and reliable products.”
Earlier this week, Shein hit headlines after reports alleged it is using Xinjiang-sourced cotton which could potentially be linked to forced labour.