Health Canada recalls toxic Shein kids' jacket following CBC investigation

Health Canada has recalled a children’s jacket sold by Shein and flagged to the government agency by CBC Marketplace, due to high levels of lead content.

Jacket contains nearly 20 times amount of allowable lead in children's products in Canada

This jacket, purchased for $23 from Chinese fast-fashion giant Shein, contained almost 20 times the limit of lead Health Canada says is safe in children’s products. (David Abrahams/CBC)

Health Canada has recalled a children's jacket sold by Shein and flagged to the government agency by CBC Marketplace due to high levels of lead content.

The jacket, which was listed as "Toddler Girl Ruffle Trim Double Breasted Polyurethane Trench Coat" on Shein's website, contained "lead in excess of allowable limits, posing a risk of lead exposure to consumers," the advisory states.

Health Canada's advisory noted "11 units of the affected product were sold in Canada" between October 2020 and September 2021. No injuries have been reported.

The recall followed a CBC Marketplace investigation into toxic chemicals in clothing sold by fast fashion retailers. In test results commissioned by Marketplace and conducted by the University of Toronto, the jacket contained nearly 20 times the allowable lead limit in children's products in Canada.

At the time of the test, lead researcher Miriam Diamond, an environmental chemist and professor at U of T, described the jacket as "evil."

"I know it looks cute, but this is actually evil. The levels of lead in this trench coat are 20 times higher than the allowable limit for kids' jewellery. The allowable limit was put in place in order to safeguard kids' health," she told the crew on location in her laboratory in September.

Lead can be toxic if ingested, and can particularly affect children. Health effects can include neurological effects, liver and kidney issues, and can impact the heart and immune system.

Diamond said while the Health Canada recall is a step in the right direction, there's serious concern as fast fashion retailers continue to sell products like this one.

"How many other products on the market exceed health-based regulations or have elevated levels of chemicals of concern for which we don't have regulations?" she wrote in an email to CBC.

"How can Health Canada prevent sales of these products when sales are done online without the company's presence (and accountability) in Canada?"

Health Canada was informed of the findings from the CBC Marketplace study prior to broadcast on Oct. 1 and was also provided the comprehensive results of the test, which found about one in five products purchased from popular online retailers had concerning levels of chemicals.

]WATCH | Marketplace finds toxic chemicals in some ultra fast-fashion items:

Toxic chemicals found in some Shein, AliExpress and Zaful clothes

2 years ago
Duration 2:14
A Marketplace investigation found lead, phthalates and 'forever chemicals' in purses, jackets and Disney princess dresses.

On Tuesday, Health Canada advised consumers should immediately stop using the toddler's trench coat product, and dispose or destroy it. 

Shein, which sells products both under its own brand and from third-party suppliers, previously sent an emailed statement to Marketplace, saying it had removed the jacket and another item of concern, a red purse, from its app, and would stop working with relevant suppliers until the issue was resolved. 

The Health Canada advisory also stated Shein will automatically issue a full refund to anyone who purchased the product. 

Diamond said rather than leaving testing to others, the fashion industry needs "to clean up their act — they need to be doing the product testing in a full and transparent way. The fashion industry needs to take full responsibility for the health and safety of their products to protect workers in the industry and consumers."

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