Price or Health? Dangerous Chemicals Found in Popular Shein and Temu Products

Price or Health? Dangerous Chemicals Found in Popular Shein and Temu Products

James Cheung
3 min read

Recent investigations by Seoul authorities and Channel 4 Dispatches have uncovered alarming levels of toxic chemicals in products sold by online shopping giants Shein and Temu. These hazardous substances were found in various items, including children's products, which raises significant health concerns. Despite the removal of affected products from the platforms, the findings highlight the ongoing risks associated with purchasing from these popular e-commerce sites.

Key Takeaways

  1. Toxic Chemicals in Products: Seoul authorities found high levels of toxic substances in almost half of the 93 Shein products inspected. Similar issues were discovered in Temu products by Channel 4 Dispatches.
  2. Health Risks: The hazardous chemicals detected, such as phthalates, lead, chromium, and nickel, are linked to severe health issues, including hormone disruptions, cancers, and neurological problems.
  3. Regulatory Failures: Both platforms sold products that falsely claimed safety certifications, posing additional risks to consumers.
  4. Consumer Protection: Despite measures taken by Shein and Temu to remove affected items, concerns remain about the enforcement of safety standards and the adequacy of consumer protection laws for online marketplaces.


The investigations into Shein and Temu have revealed a troubling pattern of toxic chemicals in consumer products. In Seoul, inspections of 93 Shein products found that nearly half contained harmful substances. Among the worst offenders were shoes with phthalate levels 428 times above the legal limit and children's watches with lead levels 278 times over the permitted threshold. Phthalates, used to increase the flexibility of plastics, are linked to severe health problems, including endocrine disruption and fertility issues.

Temu, another popular Chinese e-commerce platform, was scrutinized by Channel 4 Dispatches. The investigation revealed dangerous levels of heavy metals in various products, including a child's jacket containing antimony and a silver necklace with ten times the permissible lead level. Prolonged exposure to such heavy metals can cause significant health issues, including cognitive impairments and organ damage.

Moreover, the investigation uncovered that Temu sold items with falsified safety certifications. Tools advertised with the VDE certification were found to be fake, potentially putting users at risk of electric shocks. Similarly, climbing gear falsely claimed UIAA certification, which could lead to life-threatening accidents if the equipment fails under stress.

The response from Shein and Temu has been to remove the affected products from their platforms. However, these actions highlight the reactive rather than proactive approach to product safety. Consumer protection experts, like Lisa Webb from Which?, argue that current legislation is inadequate to handle the complexities of digital marketplaces. They call for stricter regulations to ensure that online retailers meet the same safety standards as physical stores.

Did You Know?

  • Phthalates: These chemicals are often used to soften plastics and can be found in various consumer products. Exposure to high levels of phthalates has been linked to hormonal imbalances and reproductive health issues.
  • Lead Poisoning: Especially harmful to children, lead poisoning can result in severe developmental and neurological problems. Even small amounts of lead exposure can be dangerous.
  • Safety Certifications: The VDE mark and UIAA certification are trusted symbols of product safety. Falsifying these certifications, as seen with some Temu products, not only deceives consumers but also poses serious safety risks.
  • Regulatory Gaps: Online marketplaces often escape stringent regulatory scrutiny compared to traditional retailers. This loophole allows the sale of unsafe products, highlighting the need for updated consumer protection laws in the digital age.

These findings serve as a stark reminder for consumers to be vigilant about the products they purchase online, particularly from platforms that may not rigorously enforce safety standards.

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