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Shein shoppers warned after products found to have chemicals hundreds of times above safe levels

South Korean officials investigated eight products and found one pair of shoes contained 428 times the permitted levels of phthalates.

South Korean officials have carried out an investigation on Shein products and said they have found some items containing chemicals well above safe limits. The Chinese-owned retail giant has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years, with shoppers able to order and ship clothing, jewellery and other items for a fraction of the cost of other competitors.

But authorities in Seoul have been conducting weekly assessments of products sold by Shein, as well as other low-cost retailers like Temu and AliExpress, to ensure they are all safe. Eight Shein products were selected in the latest round of tests and they included children’s shoes, leather bags and a belt, Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

The results showed some items contained high levels of chemicals used to soften plastics.

Shein model next to Shein store
Shein has grown to be the world's largest retailer, however, a recent investigation found some products contained chemicals hundreds of times higher than safe levels. (Source: Getty)

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The Seoul government revealed one pair of shoes contained 428 times the permitted levels of phthalates, which is the highest recording in their investigation so far.


Phthalates are "widely-used" chemicals in cosmetics and other products that help make plastics more durable.

A 2021 study found that "chronic exposure to phthalates will adversely influence the endocrine system and functioning of multiple organs, which has negative long-term impacts on the success of pregnancy, child growth and development, and reproductive systems in both young children and adolescents".

Three bags tested in Seoul's investigation were found to have phthalate levels 153 times the safe limit.

Investigators have requested Shein remove these items immediately from sale. They have so far tested 93 products from online retailers and nearly half of them contained toxic substances.

Yahoo Finance has contacted Shein for comment.

The company, which is based in Singapore, released a statement to AFP stating it takes safety "very seriously".

"Our suppliers are required to comply with the controls and standards we have put in place, and we work closely with international third-party testing agencies … to regularly carry out testing to ensure suppliers' compliance to our product safety standards," a spokesperson explained.

"Upon learning of any claim against our products, we immediately remove the product(s) from our site as a matter of caution whilst conducting our investigation."

The spokesperson said Shein had completed more than 400,000 chemical safety tests in just one year.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company made a whopping $23 billion in revenue in 2022 and $800 million in net profit. This was the same year it became the world's largest fashion retailer.

It has more than 3,000 suppliers and offers around 1.5 million different clothing items for sale.

It's incredibly popular in Australia.

Roy Morgan data found around 770,000 people shop on Shein every month. While that's impressive, it pales in comparison to the 1.2 million people ordering from rival brand Temu.

"The number of people that are shopping on these platforms is quite extraordinary," Michele Levine, Roy Morgan's chief executive, said.

"When we were first thinking about whether we measured them, I actually thought they'd be too small to pick up. How wrong I was — and I think many of the retailers in the country are shocked at their size."

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