Concerns over Chinese ‘toxic shoes’ grow amid uncertainty
Esra Cevher, who had bought a pair of shoes from a shop in July, noticed that whenever it rained, the polish of her shoes started to bleed and her feet looked red. The last time she wore those shoes she says she felt an unbearable pain and had to go to a hospital. The shoes are now being examined in laboratories at a hospital and public authorities are questioning whether the shoes are part of a batch smuggled into the country in August and later found to contain toxic chemicals.
Turkey was deeply shaken by reports published in August that 25,510 pairs of shoes that contained harmful chemicals were smuggled into the country. On Tuesday, Customs and Trade Minister Nurettin Canikli confirmed that customs officials have recently detected carcinogenic chemicals inside the polish of the 33,000 pairs of shoes that were imported from China. He added that the shoes went missing while being taken to a disposal facility. When officials opened the shoe boxes for disposal, Canikli said, they discovered that the shoes were old and torn ones instead of the shoes which had been found to contain toxins.
Responding to questions from journalists on Thursday, Canikli noted it is likely that those toxic shoes are circulating in the market; however, the ministry is continuing with its inquiries and hopes to find them. Canikli also warned consumers against buying low price shoes. “It is probable that they [the smugglers] sell the shoes at very low prices. The price of a normal [average quality] shoe is definite. Citizens should be careful about products sold at dipped prices,” he said.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Veli Ağbaba has submitted a parliamentary question for Canikli on the subject. Ağbaba asked the number of shoes that have been imported from China in the last five years and in 2014, respectively. He also asked about how the shoes were examined. In his question, Ağbaba also demanded responses as to whether claims that these shoes are toxic are true and if any samples were taken of the chemicals in the shoes.
The incident has also angered consumer unions over negligence in the customs process. Speaking to the Hürriyet daily, Consumers Association (TD) President Aydın Ağaoğlu stated that consumer law places all responsibility for the damage caused by defective goods on the seller and the institutions that allow those sellers to sell the products. Ağaoğlu stressed that consumers hold the right to file a complaint against both the ministry and the companies that imported the shoes.