Samsonite luggage handles found to contain cancer chemical; company voluntarily recalls inventory

Friday, June 22, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Samsonite, luggage, cancer chemicals

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(NaturalNews) Does it seem like everything causes cancer these days? Well, researchers have found another unlikely source for the disease - the handles on some Samsonite luggage.

The world's largest luggage maker said recently it planned to replace handles on its American Tourister brand's Tokyo Chic inventory after claims some of the products contained excessive levels of potentially carcinogenic chemicals.

The Samsonite brand, which aims for the mid to upper-level marketplace, said the recall would cost less than a half-million dollars and that it would take about two weeks to replace all the handles.

Reuters reported that sales of Tokyo Chic only account for about 0.7 percent of global sales.

"Despite our absolute conviction that the Tokyo Chic luggage is completely safe, we have today removed Tokyo Chic luggage from our stock everywhere it is sold in order to immediately replace the side-carrying handles with new generation handles," Ramesh Tainwala, president for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, said.

History of ill effects

Shares of the company fell 16 percent after Hong Kong's consumer products watchdog agency announced it found parts of certain suitcases containing elevated levels of chemicals that could be carcinogenic.

The agency, called the Consumer Council, reported excessive levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were discovered in the handles of four samples of Tokyo Chic suitcases.

PAHs are commonly found in plastics, rubber and lubricating oil. Scientists with the American Public Health Association describe them as "byproducts of petroleum processing or combustion. Many of these compounds are highly carcinogenic at relatively low levels. Although they are relatively insoluble in water, their highly hazardous nature merits their positioning in potable waters and wastewaters."

The National Research Council adds, "PAH compounds are a generally hazardous class of organic compounds found in petroleum and emissions from fossil fuel utilization and conversion processes. PAHs are neutral, non-polar organic molecules that comprise two or more benzene rings arranged in various configurations... Members of this class of compounds have been identified as exhibiting toxic and hazardous properties, and for this reason, the EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] has included 16 PAHs on its list of priority pollutants to be monitored in water and wastes."

The council said the traces found on the Tokyo Chic luggage could have been left there during manufacturing. But however they got there, the council's test readings of the substances were off the charts, 17,960 milligrams per kilogram. The amounts found exceeded limits set by a German voluntary labeling method on consumer plastics.

However Samsonite's tests, which were independently conducted by German and Hong Kong laboratories showed that levels were "significantly lower" than the levels found by the council.

"A human being has to eat 100 handles and then you have the probability of one in a billion chance of getting cancer," Tainwala said.

Getting a handle on contaminated handles - for the good of the company

About 800 people in Hong Kong have contacted the company about the suitcases, The Associated Press reported. About 240 of them have asked to have their handles replaced.

Speaking at a news conference announcing the recall, Tainwala said the action wouldn't have any material impact on the company.

No word on whether he voiced as much concern about consumers who could, you know, potentially develop cancer from using his company's product.


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