A new organisation has been formed which is being called CATS (Cooperation for Avoiding Toxic Substances in Shoes) and which involves the Pirmasens research centre, Germany, and a number of footwear companies.

They say ‘Under certain conditions, the originally quite harmless chrome III contained in chrome-tanned leather can produce the dangerous chrome VI, which is suspected of being carcinogenic and is a strong allergen. And because leather often comes into very close contact with the skin for extended periods of time, for instance in the case of leather gloves or shoes with leather inners, risks associated with the highly water-soluble chrome VI coming into contact with the skin can initially not be excluded.’

The issue was examined from various perspectives by experts from the sciences, authorities, monitoring authorities, private test laboratories, industry and commerce, as well as the medical and legal professions in May of this year in the premises of the test and research institute PFI Pirmasens eV.

In July 2007, the involved parties established the Cooperation for Avoiding Toxic Substances in Shoes (CATS) whose members include well-known shoe manufacturers and trading companies such as Reno, Gabor, Schmenger, LOWA, Däumling, LANXESS, SABU, Bundesverband des Deutschen Schuheinzelhandels, Garant, Sioux, Ricosta, Shoe Fashion Group, BASF, TFL, Wortmann, Deichmann, ANWR, Leder & Schuh AG, C & A, Rieker, Lloyd Shoes, Lederinstitut Gerberschule Reutlingen, Prüf- und Forschungsinstitut Pirmasens.

As a united group representing a manufacturing and procurement volume of many million pairs of shoes, the cooperation is aimed at persuading material manufacturers around the globe to permanently and safely comply with the limit values for harmful substances required in the EU and Germany. The cooperation hopes that the creation of a united front will facilitate an enforcement of the corresponding delivery conditions, particularly in the important leather-supplying countries in Asia as well as Southern and Eastern Europe.

PFI and the International Shoe Competence Centre, Pirmasens, will provide the secretariat and a CATS homepage as well as organise seminars and training events. The first seminar will be held in Guangzhou, China in the beginning of November with an agenda including the topics chrome VI, toxicology, legislation, tolerance values, harmful substance development conditions and prevention methods.

CATS is an open cooperation and continues to accept further members from the shoe manufacturing and trading, leather manufacturing and chemical industries.

Further information is available from: Caroline Brinkmann, certified engineer, tel: +49 6331 249011 or +49 6331 249030.