Forever 21, Charlotte Russe and Wet Seal caught in the act of selling accessories contaminated with heavy metals.
Recently released findings from investigations carried out by the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, CA found that astonishingly high amounts of lead were in the purses, belts and shoes sold by Forever 21, Charlotte Russe and Wet Seal. The tests were carried out by an independent lab, with findings indicating that more than half of the accessories sold by Wet Seal over the past year contained more lead than legally allowed, while about 25 percent of accessories from the other two brands also flunked the tests. The question really is why is there lead in these accessories in the first place?
All three brands signed a legal agreement more than three years ago that required them to not sell items containing levels of lead higher than a certain amount, but they have apparently failed come even close to the agreed levels with several of their accessories. Investigations into the matter started after a Chinese whistleblower tipped the Center for Environmental Health’s attorneys off about a lead-containing boot that’s been sold at Charlotte Russe for the past two years. The attorneys took the matter under investigation, finding that the boot in fact contained lead more than 20 times above the safety standard of 7,000 parts per million.
Even scarier is the fact that more than half of the Wet Seal accessories the CEH tested contained far more lead than is considered safe, with a yellow belt reaching first place at 33,200 parts per million of the metal. Lead poisoning is a major environmental health problem in the U.S. that has led to cases of kidney damage, learning disabilities in children, behavior problems, poor muscle coordination and has been linked to higher infertility rates in women and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In fact, scientists are now concluding that there is really no “safe” level of lead for humans to be exposed to, especially in the case of children and pregnant women. Since many of these brands target preteen and teenage girls, as well as young women, there is definitely cause for concern. As executive director of the CEH, Michael Green says, “Families should not support giant retailers that flout the law and ignore their responsibility to provide safer products.” You’d think that’s common sense, but these brands have been getting away with hankering toxic products for years. How many cases of outrageous health violations will it take for the greater public to stop buying cheap and tainted fast fashion products?
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