Children's products sold by Shein, a Chinese-founded online shopping giant, were found to contain toxic substances at levels far exceeding safety standards, according to the government of South Korea's capital Seoul. The items included trendy clothes and accessories offered at remarkably low prices, contributing to Shein's global popularity. However, this rapid growth has prompted increased scrutiny of its business practices and safety standards, with authorities in the European Union and South Korea conducting frequent inspections of Shein, Temu, and AliExpress.

During the latest inspections, eight Shein products, including children's shoes, leather bags, and a belt, were found to have dangerously high levels of phthalates, which are chemicals used to soften plastics. Notably, one pair of shoes had 428 times the permitted levels of phthalates, the highest amount observed during the Seoul inspections, while three bags contained up to 153 times the limit.

Phthalates, commonly used in various products such as containers, beauty items, and toys, have long been associated with hormone disruptions and linked to health issues like obesity, heart disease, and fertility problems. Seoul authorities have requested the removal of these toxic products from sale, and it was noted that most platforms have complied with such requests since the city began inspections in April. In response, Shein emphasized its commitment to product safety, stating that its suppliers must adhere to strict controls and international safety standards.

Furthermore, Seoul authorities reported that almost half of the 93 inspected products contained toxic substances, including children's watches and coloring pencils. Last month, the European Union placed Shein on a list of digital firms subject to stricter safety regulations, particularly to safeguard customers from unsafe products, especially those harmful to minors. Shein and Temu have emerged as competitors to Amazon, particularly in the US market, following the example of Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba.