Sustainable Fashion

Everything you want to know about the sustainability of the textile and fashion industry

Pesticides in Leather and the Intersection with Fast Fashion and Sustainable Fashion

The presence of pesticides in leather products has become a significant concern due to their potential impacts on human health and the environment. This review, based on the article “Determination of 24 Pesticides Residues in Leather Products by Solid-Phase Microextraction Coupled with Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry” by Jinlan Dai et al. (2020), examines the presence of pesticide residues in leather products and explores the implications for the fast fashion industry and sustainable fashion. The study aims to examine the residues of 24 pesticides in leather products using solid-phase microextraction coupled with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Additionally, this article will explore the implications of these findings within the context of the fast fashion industry and the movement towards sustainable fashion.


The study conducted by Jinlan Dai et al. (2020) utilized a novel analytical method to detect 24 pesticide residues, including organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), organophosphorous pesticides (OPPs), and pyrethroids, in leather products. The optimized conditions involved the use of a mixed solution of n-hexane and ethyl acetate (1:1) for extraction, followed by purification using Carb-PSA solid-phase extraction columns and detection through GC-MS [1]​​.

Pesticide Residues in Leather

Leather products often contain complex residual additives and a high oil content, making the detection of pesticide residues challenging. The study found that the extraction method provided reliable results, with detection limits for the pesticides ranging from 0.05 to 0.10 mg/kg and recovery rates between 74% and 116%. These findings highlight the persistence and potential bioaccumulation of pesticides in leather, posing risks to consumers and workers in the leather industry [1]​​.

Sources of Pesticides in Leather

Pesticides in leather can originate from various stages of production, including livestock breeding, preservation during storage and transportation, and the tanning process. Organochlorine pesticides like DDT and lindane have been historically used to protect hides and skins from pests. The persistence of these chemicals in the environment is due to their resistance to degradation, leading to long-term contamination and health risks​​.

Health Risks and Environmental Impact

Pesticide residues in leather products pose significant health risks. Consumers and workers are exposed to these chemicals through direct contact with leather items. High levels of pesticides, such as DDT and pentachlorophenol, have been linked to various health issues, including hormonal disruptions and carcinogenic effects. Furthermore, the release of pesticide-laden effluents from tanneries into water bodies contaminates aquatic ecosystems, affecting biodiversity and leading to bioaccumulation in the food chain​​.

Fast Fashion and Its Environmental Impact

The fast fashion industry is characterized by the rapid production of low-cost clothing to meet constantly changing consumer trends. This model often prioritizes speed and cost-efficiency over environmental sustainability and ethical practices. The use of pesticides in leather production for fast fashion items contributes to environmental pollution and poses health risks due to the persistence of these chemicals in the environment.

Environmental Pollution

Pesticides used in leather production can enter water bodies through effluents from tanneries, contaminating aquatic ecosystems and affecting biodiversity. The persistence of organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT and lindane, in the environment is particularly concerning due to their long half-lives and potential to bioaccumulate in the food chain​​ [1].

Towards Sustainable Fashion

The sustainable fashion movement advocates for environmentally friendly and ethically produced clothing. This involves minimizing the use of harmful chemicals, reducing waste, and ensuring fair labor practices. Here are some key strategies to mitigate the impact of pesticides in leather production:

Organic and Natural Alternatives

Promoting the use of organic pesticides and natural alternatives can reduce the environmental footprint of leather production. Organic farming practices for livestock reduce the need for synthetic pesticides, thereby decreasing the overall pesticide load in leather products.

Certification and Standards

Implementing and adhering to international standards for pesticide residues in leather, such as those outlined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), can help ensure safer products. Certification schemes like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Leather Working Group (LWG) provide guidelines for sustainable practices and chemical management in the leather industry.

Technological Innovations

Advancements in technology, such as the development of biodegradable and non-toxic pesticides, can play a crucial role in reducing the environmental and health impacts of leather production. Additionally, improving the efficiency of detection methods for pesticide residues, as demonstrated in the study by Dai et al., can enhance monitoring and regulatory compliance [1]​​.


The presence of pesticide residues in leather products is a pressing issue that intersects significantly with the fast fashion industry and the push towards sustainable fashion. Addressing this challenge requires a multifaceted approach, including the adoption of organic alternatives, stringent certification standards, and technological innovations. By prioritizing sustainability and ethical practices, the fashion industry can mitigate the adverse effects of pesticides on health and the environment, paving the way for a more sustainable future.


[1] Dai, J., Yin, H., Wei, H., Zhou, L., Liu, M. (2020). Determination of 24 Pesticides Residues in Leather Products by Solid-Phase Microextraction Coupled with Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry. Revista de Pielărie Încălţăminte, 20(4), 385-397. DOI: 10.24264/lfj.20.4.5​​.