: Environment & health

Mink fur farm in Flanders shuts down

27 JUNE 2016,  BELGIUM – Last February, Belgian animal protection organisation GAIA together with sister organisations Animal Rights, Bite Back, Stop Dierenmishandeling and Animaux en Péril protested to demand the closure of the local fur farm in Langemark. Undercover footage from Animal Rights revealed neglected, injured and shrieking, agonized mink in deplorable conditions in the former brick-yard at Langemark.

Fur farm in Flanders shuts down

At the end of 2012, the owner of the mink farm was granted an environmental permit to expand the farm by the then current minister, Joke Schauvliege (CD&V), notwithstanding a formal appeal submitted by GAIA together with local citizens, and notwithstanding a refusal by the Belgian Conseil d’Etat.

A survey conducted by research bureau IPSOS in 2015, clearly shows that 85% of the Flemish population are in favour of a definite ban on fur farms.

“One mink farm less”, states Michel Vandenbosch, President of GAIA.  GAIA, as did the CD&V at an earlier stage, indicates that there is scarce public support of the slaughter of mink for fur.

GAIA will continue to fight for a total ban on fur farming in Flanders.  Although the owner of the mink farm in Langemark has decided to cease his activities, 16 fur farms still remain in operation in Flanders today.

Fur on children’s wear full of toxics

AMSTERDAM, 12 JANUARY 2016 –  Fur trims on children’s jackets contain harmful levels of toxic chemicals posing a serious health risk. New research, commissioned by Dutch Fur Free Alliance member Bont voor Dieren, tested children’s wear of well known brands as Canada Goose, Versano, Woolrich, Nickelson and Airforce. All of the brands, that were tested by the German independent research laboratory Bremer Umweltinstitut, reveal high levels of formaldehyde and ethoxylates, which can cause allergies, cancer and hormonal imbalance.

Toxic FurTo prevent animal pelts from rotting, various hazardous and heavily polluting chemicals are used in the process. After processing pelts in order to conserve them, more toxics may be used to bleach or dye the fur. While industry and retail trade claim that fur is a particularly sustainable natural product, truth is that fur production is intensely polluting, energy-consumptive and an extremely unnatural process. Nicole van Gemert, director of Dutch animal protection organisation Bont voor Dieren, says:

These are very disturbing results. Again it is proven that common production processes for fur garments and accessories put human health at great risk, and we are talking about children’s wear! Extensive international research has revealed time and again that wearing fur contaminates the end consumer. Still no improvements have been made whatsoever. I hope this new report will call on the government to take the action that is needed.

Formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is usually taken in through the air or skin which may lead to irritation and allergies. In 2004 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) added formaldehyde to the list of agents that can cause cancer. Five out of six brands that were tested exceed the permissible levels of formaldehyde in textile products, as determined by the Dutch Commodities Act. The act requires products that exceed a level of formaldehyde of 120 mg/kg to come with a label that prescribes the item to be washed before use. After washing the level of formaldehyde should no longer exceed 120 mg/kg. None of the tested children’s jackets came with such a label.

According to the European Toy Safety Directive (2009/48/EC) toys made of textile are not allowed to exceed a level of 30 mg/kg of formaldehyde. All of the tested fur trims exceeded this level. A fur trim on a Canada Goose children’s jacket contains 240 mg/kg, a fur trim on an Airforce jacket 180 mg/kg and 260 mg/kg formaldehyde was found on a Versano fur trimmed jacket.

Toxic Furs

Hormonal imbalance
The test results showed high levels of ethoxylates in five out of six brands of children’s wear, largely exceeding the permissible levels. Ethoxylates behave like the hormonToxic Furse estrogen and cause disturbances to the human hormonal system. These chemicals are absorbed through skin and enter the body through blood. Ethoxylates can remain in the body for over twenty years, causing chronic health effects.

The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is an independent testing and certification system for textile products. Oeko-Tex Standard 100 aims to test for harmful substances by focusing on the actual use of the textile. The more intensive the skin contact of a product, the stricter the human ecological requirements to be met. The maximum allowable dose of ethoxylates, according to the Oeko-Tex Standard, of 100 mg/kg is exceeded by the brands Airforce, Versano, Nickelson and Canada Goose. Importers of products that exceed the dose of 1000 mg/kg are required to inform their costumers about the presence of the substance and the accompanying safety measures. This applies to fur trims of the brand Airforce. Jakob de Boer, toxicologist of the VU University of Amsterdam, adds:

The high levels of ethoxylates and formaldehyde are reason to be very concerned about the health impacts of wearing fur. These results call for a closer inspection of the permissible levels and possibly for a ban on these products.

Click here to view the test results of the German independent research laboratory Bremer Umweltinstitut.

The research report was presented on Dutch public television in the consumer affairs program Kassa, watch the full item (Dutch).

Previous results of extensive research conducted in Italy and Germany have shown the problem of toxic fur is widespread. Read more here.

Polish community resistant to mink farm plans

POLAND – 10 JULY 2015 – Polish member organization of the Fur Free Alliance, Otwarte Klatki, reports about strong public resistance among the local community to plans for the building of mink farms in Karśnice and Żegrówek. The local residents are worried about the environmental damage, the smell caused by the farms, minks that might escape and about the animal suffering caused by fur farming.

“This farm will only bring a few jobs but it will ruin the lives of hundreds”, says Aleksandra Ratajczak-Pastyka, living in Karśnice and one of the organizers of the local protests.

Paweł Rawicki, Vicepresident of Polish animal advocacy organization, and Fur Free Alliance member, Otwarte Klatki says: “Wherever a mink farm is planned in Poland, people don’t want it and protest against it. What is common for these investments is that they are ignoring the views of the local communities, the environmental damage and the welfare of the animals”.

There are almost 800 fur farms in Poland. According to Otwarte Klatki’s reports there were about 70 protest against new mink farms during last three years.

According to a recent opinion poll, 55 % of the Polish citizens are of the opininion that the breeding of foxes, raccoon dogs and minks for fur should be banned. In the age group 18-35 years old, 70 % supports a ban on fur farming (Instytut Badań Rynkowych i Społecznych (IBRiS) Homo Homini/Otwarte Klatki, 2014).

Protest mink farm plan Poland

Investigation reveals toxic fur

ITALY, 15 DECEMBER 2015 – Various toxic substances are detected in fur trims of children fashion wear by leading Italian animal rights organization LAV. LAV detected hazardous substances and possible carcinogenic agents in the fur trims that were researched in their second investigation on toxic fur. LAV, launches the TOXIC FUR 2 campaign to pay attention to the possible health threats caused by wearing fur trimmed jackets.

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Hexavalent chrome and formaldehyde were found in fur trims of children’s wear,  for babies aged less than 36 months and produced by the most renowned griffes: D&G, Blumarine Baby and Woolrich. LAV calls on the Italian ministry of health to have the investigated items withdrawn from the market and to ban fur from children’s wear.

-The processing of fur implies the use of chemicals classified as toxic and carcinogenic, and such substances, inevitably, may remain as residues even in the finished product placed on the market, that are worn by adults and children, with varying degrees of health hazard. Consumers can limit exposure to these hazardous substances by avoiding to wear and buy products containing even small parts in animal fur, says Simone Pavesi, head of LAV Fur-Free Campaign.

All the new samples of fur that were analysed in the investigation are intended for use by children aged less than 36 months.

The companies investigated in “Toxic Fur 2” are:

  • D&G (coat for children aged 36 months with rabbit fur trim)
  • BLUMARINE BABY (jacket for children aged 36 months with rabbit fur trim)
  • WOOLRICH (parka for children aged 24 months with raccoon dog fur trim)

Test reports show that the coat by D&G (for girls aged 36 months) is contaminated by the well-known CHROME VI (hexavalent), as well as by a large amount of CHROME III (trivalent), which may cause irritation; the jacket by BLUMARINE BABY (for girls aged 36 months) presents high values of CHROME III (trivalent), transferable by means of the sweat, and of FORMALDEHYDE; the jacket by WOOLRICH (baby aged 24 months) as well, reveals high levels of CHROME III (trivalent) and FORMALDEHYDE and it is also contaminated by high levels of NONYLPHENOL ETHOXYLATE. Other chemicals, such as some Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, were also detected.

The investigated garments were bought by LAV in October and November 2014, at the traditional distribution channels (stores and e-commerce). The components made by animal fur, present as edges of the above-mentioned items, were analysed by means of eco-toxicological tests, with the purpose of detecting the possible presence of residual chemicals, used in the stages of fur tanning and finishing.

LAV urges the Italian Ministry of Health to:

  • make an assessment of the hazards to the health of consumers (in this case children aged less than 36 months), with regard to the use of the tested products;
  • temporarily ban the sales of the tested products, as a precautionary measure, and promote specific investigations on other items still available for sale, according to the Consumer Code (Legislative Decree 206/2005);
  • ban the use of animal fur, at least in products intended for children.