More than a third of fake fashion contains unsafe chemicals

Counterfeit clothing, footwear and accessories are often made with dangerous levels of chemicals and heavy metals that could be hazardous for purchasers, according to an industry study.

The analysis by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and lab analysis company Intertek found that 17 out of 47 counterfeit products tested – around 36 per cent of the total – failed to comply with US product safety standards.

The items were tested for a range of hazardous chemicals and heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, phthalates, and lead, which are all linked to health issues even in small amounts.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen, while lead and phthalates can both seriously harm development in children. Cadmium meanwhile is a toxic heavy metal that causes damage to kidneys, bones, and respiratory systems and is also classed as a human carcinogen.

AAFA president and chief executive Steve Lamar said: "there is a truly astounding prevalence of unsafe counterfeits showing up every minute of every day across even the most trusted e-commerce and social media platforms."

The organisation has been pushing for online platforms that are widely used in the US and are known to be potential sources of fake goods to be included in the US Trade Representatives' list of "notorious markets" for counterfeiting, which focuses only on overseas platforms.

It is also supporting to two complementary bills that are making their way through the legislature – the SHOP SAFE Act and the INFORM Consumers Act – which have now been combined into the broader America COMPETES Act and are designed to help protect consumers from counterfeits.

The legislation, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, is due to be voted on in the Senate in the coming weeks.

"AAFA is working with Congress and US government agencies – including the US Trade Representative, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Department of Commerce, the US Department of Homeland Security, and more – to sound the alarm and develop effective policies to raise public awareness, improve tools in the fight against illicit and counterfeit goods, and hold e-commerce and social media platforms responsible," said Lamar.

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