A recent investigation conducted by Canada’s CBC Marketplace found that out of 38 samples of children’s, adult’s and maternity clothes and accessories, 1 in 5 items had elevated levels of chemicals that experts found concerning. The researchers warn that people buying from certain online retailers may be exposing themselves to potentially toxic chemicals, including lead, PFAS and phthalates. CBC Marketplace found garments containing elevated levels of chemicals from three fast-fashion retailers: Zaful, AliExpress and Shein.
For example, a jacket for toddlers, purchased online from Shein, was found to contain almost 20 times the amount of lead that Health Canada says is safe for children. A red purse, also purchased from Shein, had more than five times the threshold. A clear tote bag purchased from Zaful contained phthalates, which are considered endocrine disruptors (i.e. chemicals that can interfere with hormones). A raincoat purchased from AliExpress contained high levels of PFAS, which are also endocrine disruptors and considered “forever chemicals” because they aren’t flushed from the body and don’t break down in the environment.
In response, Shein sent an emailed statement to CBC Marketplace saying it had removed the purse and jacket from its app, and that it would stop working with relevant suppliers until the issue was resolved. “We are committed to continuous improvement of our supply chain,” the company said.
Lead can cause damaging health effects to the brain, heart, kidneys and reproductive system. Children and pregnant people are more vulnerable, with infants and children being the most at risk.