UPDATE: Earth shoe lawyers respond below.
An environmental health organization in California has turned its poignant gaze upon the popular Earth shoe, and is publicly trying to depants its maker for apparently marketing its shoes as "lead-free" even though they contain potentially dangerous amounts of lead.
It all started in September, when members of the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) bought a pair of Earth shoes, which they claim was labeled "100% lead-free."
However, when the group tested the pair of shoes, they say it turned out to be anything but.
After receiving the test results, the CEH claims it called up the shoes' maker, Earth Inc. in Massachusetts, and told them their product violated California law and asked them to fix the problem.
CEH apparently did not hear back from the company, because just last week the organization bought another pair of Earth shoes, apparently still labeled "100% lead-free," and ran another series of tests.
Surprise, surprise, CEH says, the shoes contained lead.
The group claims the shoes had more than 250 times the maximum amount of lead that more than 100 shoe and accessory companies have agreed to use in their products. The companies include Victoria Secret, Guess, Saks, and JC Penny.
"Earth Footwear seems to be one of the many companies that have jumped on the enticing, eco-friendly biofuel-powered bandwagon to increase sales and create warm, fuzzy reputations as 'green' businesses," CEH writes on its blog. "After all, what matters isn't so much the reality of their brand or product, but how the public perceives it."
According to the Earth website, their shoes are sold throughout the LA area at specialty walking-shoe stores and at Whole Foods. The company has not yet responded to our request for comment.
CEH says it is concerned about lead in the shoes, and all products, because lead exposure has been linked to strokes, high blood pressure, and higher rates of infertility in women.
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Earth Inc. attorney S. Wayne Rosenbaum wrote in and says the company denies that the shoe contains lead in levels that exceed California regulations.
CEH has identified one style of Earth Shoes that contains lead. Approximately 500 pairs of these shoes were sold to retail stores in California. Earth Inc. denies that the shoe contains lead in levels that exceed California regulations. Specifically Earth Inc. does not believe that the shoes expose anyone to an increased ingestion of lead through either direct oral contact with the shoe or through hand to mouth contact with the shoe. However, rather than obtain a Safe Use Determination from the State Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment, Earth has already agreed to meet the lead standards agreed to by other settling defendants in CEH's ongoing litigation ...
Once this issue was brought to Earth's attention by way of a verbal communication between CEH's legal counsel and myself as counsel for Earth, immediate corrective actions were taken as follows:
-- Earth, Inc. immediately notified its manufacturers to cease printing the "100% lead free" statement on all new boxes.
-- Earth, Inc. immediately began covering the "100% lead free" statement on boxes in its warehouse and distribution chain with labels deleting that reference.
--Earth, Inc. is in the process of notifying its customers to cover the "100% lead free" statement with replacement labels supplied by Earth deleting the lead reference.