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Leather vs. PVC

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Leather vs. PVC

After reading the 10 most suprising places to find petroleum, it seems that oil is the environmental villain du jour, and it’s seeping more and more into our everyday lives. As a Center for Environmental Health investigation reports, petroleum and toxic chemicals are finding ways to get even closer to us — by showing up in our closets.

The CEH tested purses from 100 U.S. retail stores made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Many people buy PVC purses and shoes for a cheaper, animal-free, leather alternative. But although PVC doesn’t require an animal’s skin, as the report suggests, it’s not a very earth-friendly alternative.

Many of the purses harbored shockingly high levels of lead, a known toxin linked with cancer, infertility, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other health problems. The levels of lead in some bags were 100 times higher than the “safe” level of lead set for children’s toys (though many scientists suspect there is no “safe” level of lead).

Some stores with lead-laden purses, like H&M, have promised to enforce better standards for products’ lead content. However, even if PVC products don’t contain high levels of lead, the other ingredients in these purses are far from safe.

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Kayla Coleman

Kayla Coleman is a Campaigns Associate at Care2, as well as an artist, writer, and animal activist. When she's not running or baking vegan cookies, she's usually reading about health and nutrition, animals, or the environment. Her motto is, "if not now, when?"

231 comments

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5:22AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Thanks for the info.

10:25AM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Please spare the helpless animals avoid leather!! Leather is not meat by product..:(( they are bred and killed in most ghastly manner in the 3rd world countries , often times just babies to make leather and suede...Please abolish this horrific practice ...Compassion for all alike...its 2012, lets evolve..!

10:21AM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Nether!! Why when animal friendly/earth-friendlier options are there.

"Leather look-alike items made with polyurethane (PU) are considered safe. Some other eco-friendly materials are organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo. Anything recycled is also a good idea.//" Interesting thank you for sharing


5:24AM PST on Feb 12, 2012

Thanks for the article.

6:54AM PST on Feb 25, 2011

how about neither ...

5:35PM PST on Feb 13, 2011

Jeeze both sound like terrible ideas!

5:55PM PST on Nov 14, 2010

Aside from the toxic ingredients in PVC and the inability of the materials to biodegrade, there's also the factor that animals die a far more horrifying, cruel death from oil spills (like starving to death or dying from ingesting oil after the Gulf oil spill, or through the destruction of their natural environmens) than animal killed quickly and far more humanely for leather.

Plus, living in the far North, I discovered soon after immigrating that that fake leather cannot take the radical shifts in temperature from outdoors to indoors in the winter (-50 degrees outside to 70 degrees inside), and end up splitting, cracking and falling apart in a matter of weeks instead of lasting for years like leather. I wouldn't be surprised if more animals died from the search for oil to frequently replace PVC products than died to make the no-need-to-replace leather gloves, boots, handbags and jackets....

5:52PM PST on Nov 13, 2010

I really don't like to buy leather OR PVC, they are both really toxic. Occasionally I do end up with shoes made of one or the other, but for the most part I try to avoid them, and end up with things like cotton canvas instead.

4:47PM PDT on Nov 2, 2010

I love OlgenHaus shoes, but they don't make my size): I am a 5 to 5.5. Hopefully one day! I wanted those splattered paint booties so bad from a couple seasons back!

12:19PM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

I used to buy only leather bags, but reading some articles made me aware of so many things.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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