Chromate abstinence

Avoiding chrome tanning pays off

Skin damage and unnecessary use of chemicals are avoidable

POLOLO has consciously and consistently used purely vegetable-tanned leather from the very beginning. POLOLO leathers are exclusively vegetable tanned – e.g with the tanning agent tara plant.

In Germany, 500,000 people are already allergic to chromate

Medical experts estimate that there are already 500,000 chromate contact allergy sufferers in Germany and their number will continue to increase. It is important to know: A sensitisation triggered by contact with chromate in leather shoes, for example, remains for life!
A chromate allergy is an overreaction of the body’s own defences: There is a risk of skin damage in the form of irritation, eczema and, in the worst case, ulcers. In the first phase, there is a risk of confusion with athlete’s foot, which is why the allergy may not be recognised immediately. If the skin is exposed to chromate for a longer period of time, it can even have a carcinogenic effect.

85 to 90 percent of the world’s leather production is tanned with chromate

In leather production, the tanning process is intended to make the animal skin more supple and durable. Traditional, but somewhat more complex and time-consuming processes with vegetable tanning agents can be used for this purpose – the fastest and cheapest way to achieve this goal is tanning with the heavy metal chrome: 85 to 90 percent of the world’s leather production is therefore chrome tanned.
Under inadequate production conditions, however, the useful chromium (III) used can be converted by oxidation into harmful, toxic chromate, called chromium (VI). Tanners in the so-called “low-wage countries” and also those living near such a factory are at risk of serious health damage – as are the users of their products in the consumer countries.

On the safe side with vegetable tanning

Experts estimate that despite an EU regulation from 2014, around 20 percent of leather shoes sold in Germany still contain significant amounts of chromate, even though it is banned. However, since chromium (VI) residues are odourless, detection is only possible with elaborate laboratory tests.
Chrome-tanned leathers are always grey at the end of the tanning process, so it is always necessary to dye such leathers – this is not necessary with vegetable-tanned leathers, because the colour tone of the tanning plant can be left (rhubarb, for example, dyes yellow, tare white). The dyeing can therefore be done directly with the vegetable tanning agent, which is harmless to health. The consistent use of purely vegetable-tanned leather therefore offers – when evaluating the entire process chain – many advantages and avoids problems.

Detailed blog post:
Chromate as an underestimated health hazard