Seoul City inspects items sold by Shein: products contained high amounts of phthalates

Seoul City inspects items sold by Shein: products contained high amounts of phthalates

Des produits pour enfants, vendus en Corée du Sud, par Shein contenaient des substances toxiques, à des niveaux dépassant des centaines de fois les seuils acceptables JADE GAO/AFP

Children's products sold in South Korea by Chinese online shopping giant Shein contained toxic substances at levels hundreds of times above acceptable thresholds, Seoul city authorities said on Tuesday.

Based in Singapore, Shein has enjoyed strong popularity for several years by offering a wide selection of fashionable clothing and accessories at low prices.

This explosive growth has prompted increased scrutiny of its business practices and safety standards, including in the European Union and South Korea – where Seoul city authorities have carried out weekly inspections of items sold by platforms like Shein, Temu and AliExpress.

Large quantities of phthalates

In the latest, they screened eight products sold by Shein, including children's shoes, leather bags and a belt, and found that several contained large amounts of phthalates, chemicals used to soften plastics.

A pair of shoes contained 428 times the permitted levels of phthalates and three bags had amounts up to 153 times the limit, the municipality said.

Phthalates have been known for decades to cause hormonal disruptions. Their presence has been linked to obesity, heart disease, certain cancers and fertility problems.

A Seoul city official, Park Sang-jin, told AFP that he had requested the products be removed from sale and that since the city began inspections in April , most platforms have complied with these requests. Shein "takes product safety very seriously", one of its spokespersons told AFP .

Guarantee compliance with safety standards

The company requires its suppliers to comply with its controls and standards, and works with international agencies to ensure compliance with safety standards, he said .

"As soon as we become aware of a claim", he added, "we immediately remove the product(s) from our site", while we conduct an investigation and take the necessary measures in the event of proven non-compliance.

So far, Seoul authorities said they had inspected 93 products and found that nearly half of them contained toxic substances.

In April, the European Union added Shein to its list of digital companies large enough to be subject to stricter security rules, including measures to protect against dangerous products, particularly those that could be harmful to minors.

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