Chromium is an element that, in some forms, can be harmful to health and the environment. Hexavalent chromium in leather goods or leather parts of articles that come into contact with the skin poses a risk to human health.
Chromium and chromium compounds are used, for example, to treat surfaces, dye textiles, tan leather and impregnate wood. Tanning is a process in which an animal hide is transformed into soft, durable leather. Chromium tanning is the most common method of tanning leather, which is a process that uses the trivalent form of chromium, chromium (III). If the tanning has been done incorrectly, the trivalent chromium can be converted to hexavalent chromium, chromium (VI), which is the form that can be harmful.
Hexavalent chromium in leather goods or leather parts of articles that come into contact with the skin poses a risk to human health. Hexavalent chromium can cause allergic reactions, cause cancer (mainly by inhalation of dust containing the substance) and is also hazardous for the environment.
It is primarily the people working in the tanneries who are exposed to the harmful substances and who may suffer health problems as a result. Secondly, the environment around the tanneries is affected. And ultimately, the consumer suffers as hexavalent chromium can cause irritation, sores and rashes on the skin.
Most tanneries in the EU have already developed and are largely applying measures to control and minimise the risk of hexavalent chromium formation. The problems with hexavalent chromium in leather goods are considered to come mainly from articles manufactured in countries outside the EU where the same regulations do not exist.
Trivalent chromium can cause allergic reactions. Skin contact with the substance may increase sensitivity and cause allergic reactions.