A Simple Test to Determine the Propensity of a Fatliquor to Trigger the Formation of Chromium (VI) in Leather

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Irene Compte
Rosa Cuadros
Francina Izquierdo
Felip Combalia
Anna Bacardit


Since the entry into force of the EU Commission Regulation regarding hexavalent chromium in leather articles in 2014, it is of paramount importance to follow good manufacturing practices to ensure the production of leather not only free of Cr(VI) but with no tendency to its formation. The equilibrium between Cr(III) and Cr(VI) in leather can be disturbed under stressful environmental conditions such as light or heat exposure. These factors could trigger the lipid peroxidation of unprotected unsaturated fatliquoring agents, thus leading to the oxidation of Cr(III) to Cr(VI). Due to the relevance that the oxidation of the fatliquoring agents has in the subsequent Cr(VI) formation, the Propensity Test has been developed and verified as an innovative verifying in-house tool for tanners to verify that each of the fatliquoring agents used in the tannery processes are properly protected against oxidation and thus, that Cr(VI) formation is not triggered.The method has four simple steps and can be easily carried out in the tanneries’ pilot plant. It does not require special equipment or specific apparatus because all the necessary instruments are usually available in any tannery and the skills needed to perform the test are the same that leather technicians use in their day-to-day work, so the implementation cost is practically non-existent.This work leads to the conclusion that there is a higher possibility of Cr(VI) formation among sheep skins rather than among calf hides. The rechroming process also presents risks regarding Cr(VI) content in leather, however, in this study it has been shown that rechroming does not increase Cr(VI) formation risks when the fatliquoring agents are properly protected against autoxidation. Therefore, using a well-protected fatliquoring agent is mandatory for the purpose of producing Cr(VI)-free leather despite the type of leather.

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