The chemicals involved and the huge amount of energy that is need to tan leather does indeed have a negative impact on the environment. Some of the components of the chemicals have to be mined, as well. And, last but not least, leather tanneries often have to rely upon the factory farming of cows.
In addition to using large amounts of energy, there are also many dangerous chemicals, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes, some of them cyanide-based, all bad for the environment. In addition, since most leather is chrome-tanned, the chromium wastes are considered extremely hazardous by the EPA. People who live near tanneries as well as work in them, have a high risk of developing certain forms of cancer.
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