Control of chromium and risk evaluation of cobalt
Approx. 10 % of the Danish population suffers from skin allergy to one or several chemicals. Among these, metal containing chemicals - incl. chromium and cobalt - constitute the most common allergens. It was the aim of the project to obtain more information on the use of cobalt in leather goods and to control how far products prepared from leather comply with the existing rules for content of chromium (VI) in accordance with the legislation.
Skin allergy is a major health problem. Approx. 10 % of the Danish population suffers from skin allergy to one or several chemicals. Among these, metal containing chemicals - incl. chromium and cobalt - constitute the most common allergens. Leather goods are the most common origin of chromium allergy in Denmark. As of May 2015
Leather goods in contact with human skin must not be marketed if they contain chromium (VI) in concentrations of or higher than 3 mg/kg (0.0003%) based on the dry weight of the leather (REACH, appendix 17, section 47, points 5 and 6). Recent investigations show that leather goods also can contain cobalt which may cause cobalt allergy.
The overall conclusion of the market survey was that the industry associations, producers, and retailers of leather goods did not have any knowledge of the occurrence of cobalt in the products. Neither did they know whether the leather is dyed with premetallized dyes or whether cobalt was involved in other processes.
The concentration of chromium (VI) was below the detection limit in 74 out of 94 leather samples being analyzed. In 10 samples the concentration of chromium (VI) was higher than the limit value of 3 mg/kg dry matter, though was one result within the uncertainty of the analysis method and was thereby not regarded as a violation af the limit value. The highest measured values of 28 mg/kg, 16 mg/kg, and 11 mg/kg, respectively, were found in handbags. Chromium (VI) content exceeding the detection limit was found in 3 out of 8 shoes for babies and children. In one of these shoes the concentration was higher than 3 mg/kg.
From the measure cobalt concentrations it is estimated that there are no risks for initiation of cobalt allergy or risk for induction of symptoms when cobalt allergics are wearing these analyzed goods is considered to be low.