shoe-storeBy SafBaby Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson

MOST plastic and leather shoes for babies and children today contain cancer-causing chemicals, allergens and other toxins. It is a very sad truth.

Because of the lack of regulations, anything goes and it’s very challenging to find a safer alternative when it comes to dressing our children’s feet. Summer time, babies and kids are even more vulnerable to the toxic brew because they are wearing sandals with bare feet.

Test of Children’s Leather and Synthetic Sandals in Germany

Regulations in Europe, especially Germany are higher than US standards, so this may give you an idea of what kind of toxic soup is in kids shoes targeted for the US market.

‘Oeko-Test’ magazine tested 15 Leather and Synthetic Kids Sandals in the laboratory and ALL of the 15 Sandals-model in the test failed and were rated ‘poor’ and ‘unsatisfactory’. Not one passed the tests! “Pollutants, as far as the eye can see”, was the slightly desperate ‘Oeko-Test’ conclusion.

Leather shoes are no better than Synthetic Shoes concluded the test. “Leather contains hexavalent chromium, which can be formed from the chromium salts used in leather tanning, and preservative such as formaldehyde or chlorinated phenols or paraffins are an issue too,” according to ‘Oeko-Test’.

Plastic shoes are a slightly better alternative – but they can often contain chemical plasticizers, dyes, or allergens. And not only on the outside or on the sole, but in the immediate vicinity of the foot. ‘Oeko-Test’ advises parents therefore, ALWAYS have their babies or children wear socks

The following toxins can be found in our babies and children’s shoes today:

The following mostly cancerous toxins can be found today in baby and children’s shoes:

  • Arsenic,
  • Cadmium,
  • Chromium,
  • Cobalt,
  • Copper,
  • Lead,
  • Mercury,
  • Nickel, and zinc, chlorinated phenols (biocide),
  • Ortho-phenylphenol (fungicide, anti-bacterial agent, preservative),
  • 2,4,6- tribromphenol (fungicide, bactericide, flame retardant),
  • Chlorinated paraffins (de-fatting, re- fatting),
  • Dimethylfumarate (preservative),
  • Formaldehyde (preservative),
  • Formamide,
  • Azodyes,
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

What are the safety regulations on Kids Shoes in the US?

Here are the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) Chldren’s Footwear regulations, enacted in 2008.

US Regulations on Children’s Footwear Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA”) enacted in 2008 regulates specific substances in children’s products including children’s footwear. The CPSIA sets limits for lead content and phthalates in children’s products. A children’s product is defined as a consumer product designed or intended primarily for children age 12 years or younger.

With respect to children’s footwear, Section 101(a) of the CPSIA restricts children’s products, including children’s footwear, and components of children’s footwear, to a lead content limit of 100 parts per million (ppm.) In addition, the use of paint or surface coating on children’s shoes must not exceed 90 ppm

Toxic Chemicals in Plastic Shoes

iplay_summershoesA German Analysis (Radio Channel WDR2) had 10 plastic shoe tested: 6 out of 10 plastic shoes contained carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

Legal Limits of PAH?

There is no set US legal limit on PAH in shoes, so I wondered if the EU is doing a better job and has a regulation in place, here is what I found:

On October 31, 2012 the EU informed the World Trade Organization of a draft regulation which would ban the use of certain Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) in consumer goods. This regulation is likely to come in to force towards the end of 2013, and therefore would be mandatory at the end of 2015, two years after implementation.3

Formamide in EVA foam Shoes

Although Crocs don’t contain Formamide, most Imitations are made of EVA Foam. To find out more, see our post ‘Are Crocs and Other Foam-Like Kids Shoes/Flip Flops Made of EVA Foam?‘.

Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium VI) in Leather Shoes

leather-shoesExcessive Levels of Chromium 6 have been found in children shoes. The toxic chemical chromium 6 and sometimes even mercury are used during the leather process.

Chromium-6 is recognized as a human carcinogen when it is inhaled. Chronic inhalation of chromium-6 has been shown to increase risk of lung cancer and may also damage the small capillaries in kidneys and intestines. Also, Hexavalent chromium is a strong allergen and it can lead to allergic skin reactions like contact eczema.

Other adverse health effects associated with chromium-6 exposure, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), include skin irritation or ulceration, allergic contact dermatitis, occupational asthma, nasal irritation and ulceration, perforated nasal septa, rhinitis, nosebleed, respiratory irritation, nasal cancer, sinus cancer, eye irritation and damage, perforated eardrums, kidney damage, liver damage, pulmonary congestion and edema, epigastric pain, and erosion and discoloration of one’s teeth.4

Why shoes need an ECO label, like ‘certified organic’ for clothes or food!

Today, consumers are left in the dark, there is no way knowing if the shoes we purchase are filled with toxic chemicals.

Most of these toxins in shoes are unregulated, this needs to change! We need our government to take action and make our shoes safe because our feet take in more toxins than anything else in our bodies and children are extremely vulnerable.

Are there any safe alternative shoes?

It is very hard to find safe shoes and buying expensive leather shoes are no guarantee that they are safer than cheap Plastic Shoes. Without a safety or organic label like there is in clothing or food, we can’t really know for sure.

I contacted several shoe companies in the US to find out more about their shoes for babies and kids, what they’re made of, if they contain a list of chemicals and where they are manufactured.

Some companies sent us some very general replies BUT NOT  really answering our questions. We’ll do a follow up post in a few weeks to let you know which company sells the SAFEST shoes and which doesn’t. Also including who didn’t want to answer our questions.