LANXESS Leather Business Unit offers a comprehensive service package that sets new standards for leather industry suppliers worldwide. The world population tops six billion, placing a tremendous burden on the environment and natural resources. By converting hides – organic ‘waste products’ from the food industry – into leather, tanners help to conserve these resources and protect the environment.

This presumes that little new waste is produced and that the end product is ecologically and toxicologically harmless. The manufacture of processing chemicals for leather production is subject to the same strict specifications, in accordance with ISO 9001/2000 and ISO 14001 certification, at all the LANXESS sites. Each delivery comes complete with a comprehensive set of documents, such as European or US-standard safety data sheets, even if not required by law in the customer’s country.

Attention is always drawn to any potentially hazardous components in a product and to the respective statutory requirements. LANXESS no longer use particularly critical substances. Such substances, either banned by law in Europe or considered to be technically outdated because of their toxicological potential, include:

* arsenic

* azo dyestuffs, which may split off carcinogenic amines

* toxic heavy metals

* persistent organic pollutants

* polychlorinated and poly-brominated phenols

* potentially sensitising or carcinogenic dyestuffs and pigments

* short-chain chlorinated paraffins (C10 – C13)

* tributyl tin compound

‘If there is the slightest indication that the raw materials used by us might contain critical substances or that such substances might be formed during the manufacturing process, we conduct analyses’, stresses Dr Martin Kleban, head of product development, leather wet-end, in the Leather Business Unit. ‘In this way, we can ensure that our tanning materials, finishing agents and other auxiliaries are free of such substances.’

Despite these precautions, the possibility of the leather end product containing pollutants still cannot be ruled out entirely. Contamination may occur, for example, if the raw hides are obtained from uncontrolled sources or if the processing conditions during the complex manufacturing process are not up to standard. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative to check the finished leather article to ensure that the level of Responsible Care set by LANXESS is maintained.

Such checks are standard procedure today for quality-conscious manufacturers of leather and leathergoods. Many even have voluntary internal restrictions that go beyond what is required by law. LANXESS Leather have a team of experts, coordinated from Leverkusen, in each of their regional centres to provide active support for these manufacturers.

Products purchased from LANXESS can, at the customer’s request, be tested to see if they conform to such specifications. If they do, a certificate is issued; if they don’t, alternative products are recommended. ‘By utilising the know-how of the Leather Business Unit and mobilising the resources that the group is able to provide worldwide, LANXESS can provide its customers with a level of product quality and service that sets a benchmark’, says Kleban.

The Industrial and Environ-mental Affairs Department team of specialists at the Leverkusen site constantly monitors scientific findings in the fields of ecology and toxicology and also observes political developments within the chemical sector with regard to statutory requirements and voluntary commitment. LANXESS then use this information at their sites around the world when developing products and improved technologies.

Governments and professional associations have confirmed the success of this strategy by awarding LANXESS various environment prizes. ‘We are proud of the awards we have received for our achievements in the field of environmental protection and safety, for example the title of ‘environment-friendly company’, which was conferred on us in 2004 by SEPA, the environmental authorities of the People’s Republic of China’, says Dr Bernhard Wehling, head of the Leather Business Unit.