Contact with nickel and hexavalent chromium is primary reason for the current increase in contact allergies among people. As such, it is of importance to a responsible carmaker.
“We have observed that the incidence of contact allergies is growing and that women are more affected by them than men,” says Andreas Andersson, environmental engineer at Volvo Cars.
This is true, for example, of nickel allergies which, according to a European study, affect at least 10% of the female population and 1% of men. Nickel leakage has been shown to be the commonest form of skin contact allergy.
“For this reason, Volvo Cars has, on it own initiative, decided to implement a 2001 EU directive concerning nickel leakage from items in long-term contact with the skin,” adds Andreas Andersson. “Volvo’s requirements also extend to items such as keys, door handles and safety belt buckles, even though skin contact with these is only short-term.”
Volvo Cars has implemented the ÖkoTex 100 textile standard since 1998. This is an assurance that the upholstery fabrics have been tested for allergenic and carcinogenic dyes, formaldehyde, pesticides, heavy metals and chlorinated phenols.
“This is a comprehensive code which has already had a significant impact in the textile industry.”
Allergy to hexavalent chromium occurs in about 2–3% of the population and is caused mainly by leather tanned by a process using chromium. Shoe, glove and watch strap leathers are common examples of chromium-tanned leathers. Although tanning makes a leather durable, hexavalent chromium from the tanning process can be released and cause an allergy.
With very few exceptions, all leathers used in Volvo cars are now tanned using natural vegetable-based substances.
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