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Shein products: Seoul government warns of toxic chemicals

Shein products: Seoul governments warns of toxic chemicals
Shein products: Seoul governments warns of toxic chemicals

Concerns have been raised about the safety of Shein’s children’s products. The Seoul government tested garments sold by the Chinese-founded online shopping giant, and found it to contain toxic substances hundreds of times above acceptable safety levels. 

As reported by Inside Retail Asia, Shein clothes contained “significant quantities” of potentially dangerous chemicals, including phthalates. One pair of shoes reportedly contained “428 times the permitted levels of phthalates.”

Why does this matter? The presence of phthalates poses a significant health risk. Research over the past years has shown that phthalates cause hormone disruptions and various other health issues.

Research[1] shows that phthalate toxicity affects the liver, kidney, thyroid gland tissue, and testis. “Exposure is associated with adverse developmental effects in terms of increased prenatal mortality, reduced growth and birth weight, skeletal, visceral, and external malformations in rodents.”

Investigating Shein

Shein, now headquartered in Singapore, is facing increased scrutiny for its practices, especially in the European Union and South Korea.

In April, the European Commission implemented “stringent rules” under the Digital Services Act (DSA) to protect online users. 

Shein was ordered to: 

  • Implement mitigation measures to address risks.
  • Analyze systemic risks of illegal content and products.
  • Be subject to an external independent audit every year.
  • Be more transparent about the ads included on its websites.
  • Reinforce its processes, resources, testing, and documentation.

In South Korea, authorities conduct weekly inspections of items sold by Shein, Temu and AliExpress. The latest round of testing was done in Seoul, on eight products sold by Shein, including children’s shoes, leather bags and a belt. 

ALSO READ: Shein wants to sell its supply-chain secrets to other brands

Shein’s response

A Shein spokesperson told AFP the e-tailer takes product safety “very seriously.” The spokesperson claims that Shein conducted 400,000 chemical safety tests of products within the past year. 

Business Times Singapore reports that the retailer has since removed the products tested by South Korean authorities. Singapore’s Consumer Product Safety Office (CPSO) confirmed the removals of the tainted products, and said investigations are ongoing. 

“The CPSO has been in touch with Shein, and we understand that they are conducting further investigations on the products that were identified to be unsafe by the Seoul authorities,” the spokesperson added. 

The CPSO says it will continue to work with Shein “to remove the sale of products that are found to be non-compliant with requirements under the Consumer Protection (Consumer Goods Safety Requirements) Regulations in Singapore.” 


[1] Wang Y, Qian H. Phthalates and Their Impacts on Human Health. Healthcare (Basel). 2021 May 18;9(5):603. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9050603. PMID: 34069956; PMCID: PMC8157593.

About the author

Cheryl has contributed to various international publications, with a fervor for data and technology. She explores the intersection of emerging tech trends with logistics, focusing on how digital innovations are reshaping industries on a global scale. When she's not dissecting the latest developments in AI-driven innovation and digital solutions, Cheryl can be found gaming, kickboxing, or navigating the novel niches of consumer gadgetry.

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