Something about chrome tanning and something about other.

‘Chrome tanning’ she said, when we got to talk about the magazine Lær, Sko og Skinn, ‘ you must write about chrome tanning, it pollute rivers and kill the fish’. ‘Yes, yes, I replied, it can probably be right, but I do not run a protest magazin’.  And the thought that many potential reader and by that buyer of if enough dabbled with chrome tanned hides and ditto goods. But she persisted; ‘chrome tanning pollute and is health damage’. ‘Yes, yes,, I know it is found cancer causing’s substances in chrome tanning but,…….’. ‘You must write about it’ she continued to say. And held almost going a war dance (or thundering speech?) in front of me. But still I felt doubt even if it was something in what she said I could be agree with. It was about the big industry’s shadow sides. But the magazine Lær, Sko og Skinn’s contribution could hardly be the truth. It could just be a little guess work. When several big tanneries was closed down in Scandinavia through the 1990’s and the beginning of 2000 so was it also with background in new (EU)  requirements concerning purification plants (as they could not afford to, or the state would contribute with money to). And it was about  emissions of quite big amounts of “chrome tanning fabric”, As well in rivers as sea. Both on short time and through a 100 years period or so. The chrome tanning method was invented in 1853. And fitted as a hand in a glove in to the industrial revolution. When the sewing machine and other machines and mass production came on the agenda. Something as disturbed for the small craft(ers) as gradual forward to the 1960’s-70’s lost terrain. So they almost was on the edge of the erasure  plunge.  A advantage with the chrome tanning was that it took only a fraction of the time to chrome tan a hide in relations to those days method for vegetable tanning of the same type of hide. A half year in tanning bath was usual  in vegetable tanning before it start to be  useful leather of a hide. While it took three weeks with chrome tanning. No thought at the time that chrome tanning could lead to pollution or possible contain harmful substances. A big and forgotten dream in many was that it now should be possible for each human on earth to get a pair of shoes. Something that simply was not a course as to day in the end of 1800 and early 1900. In the quiet clean-up after the old big industrial tanneries in Scandinavia with among other grounds in pollution and health damage’s substances in chrome tanning so is the fact so fare as is known about health damages: that it is about chrome in big amounts. And about pollution: that it is something  as happen both on short sight and over long time. *Any public “after reports” about the situation with the closed down tanneries in Scandinavia do not exist as fare it is known; if it takes 1 year, 10 year or 100 year before the nature have corrected up possible damages is unknown. In discussions relate one to most what one perceives is uplighted in the media. As often have quoted an expert. And in conversations and on internet can it be many kind of “theories” as makes prevails. And it get fats to should relate to the unknown or what you understand as pure nonsense. And it is easy when you have a little workshop to highlight your own methods advantages and qualities on expense of eks. chrome tanning. Something as real is a rap to the big industry. And it remind about that the old struggle as stood between craft and industry when both new tanning methods and machines come in use around the industrial revolution time  not are over. It lives a slumbering existence. In a world as slowly looks to go of the climate hinges in its over industrialization . And where “the little crafter” with his old crafts methods could be a useful impulse. It tan’s over a low shoe in this world with synthetic agents as you know nothing at all about. And only indirect can you understand that it can be a possible connection eks. to diseases. When you read in the media that the number  on the cancer sicks on world basis expect to rise with 20-30% next ten or twenty years. How chrome tanned/synthetic tanned leather and hide possible can contribute to this numbers shall be unsaid. But it was possible not a good solution to get rid with the tanneries and send hides to tanning around in that believe that now was much done in the struggle for both health and the environment. The problems looks just to have start walking around. What you get in return of hide and leather, or shop on internet, exist, as fare as it is known not a definite answer on. Pushed to the extreme gets the questions: Can I be sick of using the leather jacket?. Or the baby bag of chrome tanned leather?. Or worse: of products as claiming to be leather or hide?. It must be the authorities as shall answer such questions. Even if the reasons to them (the tanneries and its products) have been moved outside of sights and range width. A better solution than to get rid of the tanneries would be (have been) to develop **the old type country tanneries with its natural tanning methods in the country where the hide and skins have its origin. So they not became moved around from country to country after the capitals needs for free flow of goods and services. Or if you like: as a part of the times global financial policy. With local tanneries would you at least know how and under what circumstances leather and skin was produced. The “problematic” gets fast   object for free speculations, also by those who  rather would get rid of leather and hide as a material. Something as again will result in the use of yet more  artificial substances.  Like that comes you also to an another side of the same case between the industry and craft through a century. Nemer to the development of artificial substances as is marketed as artificial leather. Such as artificial leather do not exist. It is a declaration as come in the wake of the industrial revolution. And it’s a field the lawmakers adroit have kept  themselves outside from through 100 years. To marketed a artificial substances as hide or leather should be forbidden. Leather and hide is a natural and unique material as never have been to the detriment for some.


This article was on print on Norwegian in ‘Verkstedkroken”,the paper version of Lær, Sko og Skinn No. 1-2014. It’s not complete verbatim reproduced on the net page. But are without any main differences on the net page.

The magazine get the question after publishing about what chrome tanning is. It is a chemical tanning method.

*After publishing has it been clear that it exist a swedish report about the pollution situation with the closed down Malung Tannery AB in Sweden as was a chrome tannery. The report is publicly available and can be found by going in on internett using the filename “Malung Garveri AB” and look fore: www.lä collection Document/Sv/ Publication/Milijø och Klimat. (it’s only written on swedish).

**What concern the notion ” old type country tanneries” so was this a smaller type tanneries with  1  to 8-10 persons employed.  And they mainly produced  vegetable tanned leather. And with handcraft

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June 2014

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