The Hong Kong Consumer Council ("the Consumer Council") has issued its latest report on the testing of 15 different proprietary models of plasticized hardshell suitcases available on the Hong Kong market. The testing was conducted over a wide range of durability, water resistance and chemical safety in daily use. A principal focus was on the testing application of long and often very rough usage which is of course more relevant with the highest cost value of some models.

In relation to plastics a specific group of chemicals is used to make plastics more durable. The common use of one group of Phthalates in the huge group of chemicals under that label is to harden plastics and make them rigid in order to extend plastic life through long use. One side effect of this group of plastics with Phthalate content was a major concern in respect of the Consumer Council analysis.

Potentially dangerous levels of phthalates in the retractable handle of one model in particular exceeded the upper limit set by the European Union ("REACH") Regulation by 45 times. There is a commonly used and accepted voluntary labelling scheme in Germany which is concerned with the danger of certain PAH concentrations which are known to have high levels of cancer causing potential. One publicly available danger of PAH is that it is also deemed carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Further carcinogenic concentration has been found in PAHs falling short of compliance with the minimum German standard.

Some brands being tested in Hong Kong were found to contain cancer causing chemicals which just might impair both the growth of children and also the male reproductive system.

However, apart from the hard usage bashing about and extensive water spraying of the tested samples which found many wanting in quality, the handles and retractable handles of luggage were also tested for 4 types of PAH. One model in particular exceeded the two types of PAH upper limit required by the German standard. The Consumer Council found that although there is no regulated upper limit in Hong Kong for PAH content in consumer goods (including suitcases) the Consumer Council accordingly recommends the introduction of regulation for phthalates and PAH levels because, however remote, there is indeed a risk of skin contact with suitcase carry handles containing PAHs which if carried up to ingestion through the mouth would very possibly give rise to carcinogenic contact constituting a long-term health risk – particularly for suitcase users with eczema or open wounds on their hands.

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