CEH Reaches Agreement with Leather Companies to Eliminate Toxic Metal Known as ‘Hex Chrome’

The Alameda Superior Court recently approved a precedent-setting, industry-wide settlement between the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and 28 leather footwear and glove companies, including industry leaders like Deckers and Wolverine Worldwide. Under this settlement, the companies have agreed to use only leather that has been sourced from tanneries that have implemented state-of-the-art protocols to ensure the elimination of hexavalent chromium, also known hex chrome, on the surface of the leather.

Most leather goods are produced using a chrome-tanning process that can lead to the formation of hex chrome. People can be exposed to this cancer-causing chemical through skin contact with chrome-tanned leather goods that have not been properly processed and treated. 

Hex chrome is a toxic metal listed under California’s Proposition 65 as a known carcinogen and reproductive toxicant. Certain manufacturing protocols can be implemented by tanneries to prevent the formation of hex chrome in chrome-tanned leather. This can include adding antioxidants during the tanning process, limiting the level of fats present in the leather, limiting the use of oxidizing agents during the tanning process, monitoring pH levels during tanning, washing the leather of unfixed chrome, and maintaining monitored storage and transportation conditions based on temperature, humidity, and light conditions.

Since April 2019, CEH has issued Notices of Violation to over 100 leather footwear and glove companies alleging that they violated Prop 65 by exposing consumers to hex chrome. The legal agreement entered by the Court in February 2024 requires settling defendants to source their leather from tanneries that adhere to stringent protocols that prevent the formation of hex chrome. Alternatively, the settling defendants can achieve compliance by sourcing their leather exclusively from tanneries that have achieved a Gold rating in audits performed by the Leather Working Group (LWG), which likewise indicates that stringent protocols preventing hex chrome formation have been followed. Defendants are expected to comply in full by no later than the end of 2025.

As part of this settlement, the Court also approved a procedure that allows any company selling leather footwear or gloves in California to “opt in” to this agreement. Defendants still actively engaged in settlement negotiations with CEH, as well as leather companies not previously involved in the case, are both eligible to opt in. Opting in allows companies to make the same commitments as already-settled defendants to secure their own compliance with Prop 65. The first opt in period will be open for only 90 days, so companies that want to opt in must do so by July 10th.  

CEH is pleased with this first-of-its-kind settlement, which calls for manufacturers to adopt specific reformulation protocols at the tannery level that will clean up the leather tanning industry and ultimately reduce consumer exposure to hex chrome. CEH encourages any leather footwear or glove company interested in protecting their customers from hex chrome exposure to visit for more information on how to opt in. 

Companies that will eliminate hex chrome from footwear and gloves by end of 2025:

  1. Aldo U.S., Inc.
  2. Ariat International, Inc.
  3. Caleres, Inc.
  4. Deckers Outdoor Corporation
  5. Fitflop USA, LLC
  6. Harbor Freight Tools U.S.A., Inc.
  7. Central Purchasing, LLC
  8. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc.
  9. Magnanni, Inc.
  10. Mephisto, Inc.
  11. Mephisto Concept Stores, Inc.
  12. Nisolo LLC
  13. Nordstrom, Inc.
  14. Saks Incorporated (now known as SFA Holding, Inc.)
  15. Saks & Company LLC
  16. Saks Direct LLC
  17. Shoe West, Inc.
  18. Skechers U.S.A., Inc.
  19. Steven Madden, LTD
  20. Steven Madden Retail, Inc.
  21. Valentino USA, Inc.
  22. Weyco Group, Inc.
  23. Designer Brands, Inc.
  24. DSW Shoe Warehouse, Inc.
  25. Wolverine World Wide, Inc.
  26. Wolverine Outdoors, Inc.
  27. Sperry Top-Sider, LLC
  28. Hush Puppies Retail, Inc.

Defendants that have been sued or noticed by CEH and have until May 21, 2024 to “opt in” to remove hexavalent chromium from footwear and gloves:

  1. Urban Outfitters
  2. Allsaints 
  3. Tory Burch
  4. Cole Haan
  5. Rainbow Sandals
  6. Zara 
  7. Tapestry (Kate Spade, Coach)
  8. J Crew
  9. Spring Step
  10. Celine
  11. Rockport 
  12. The Kooples 
  13. Schutz
  14. Hugo Boss 
  15. J Jill
  16. Footwear Unlimited (Frye)
  17. Reef 
  18. French Connection 
  19. Cels Enterprises (42 Gold)
  20. Bill Blass 
  21. Marc Fisher 
  22. Everlane
  23. Geox 
  24. Off White
  25. Dolce and Gabbana
  26. Manolo Blahnik
  27. Roger Vivier
  28. Brunello Cucinelli
  29. Ralph Lauren
  30. Nike
  31. Edelrid
  32. West Chester Protective Gear
  33. Protective Industrial Products
  34. Lowe’s 
  35. Milwaukee Electric Tool
  36. Home Depot
  37. Paul Green
  38. Highline United (ASH)
  39. Roberto Cavalli
  40. Aeffe (Moschino)
  41. Lafayette 148