- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

HONG KONG (AP) - Samsonite International SA is recalling 250,000 “Tokyo Chic” suitcases worldwide to replace handles on the bags after a Hong Kong consumer group found high levels of compounds linked to cancer.

The luggage maker said Tuesday that independent tests showed the suitcases posed no health hazard and it was carrying out the recall to allay consumer concerns.

Samsonite pulled the line from Hong Kong stores on Monday to replace the side handles after the city’s Consumer Council reported that a sample it tested had levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that were higher than recommended in voluntary guidelines.

The compounds are commonly found in plastics, rubber and lubricating oil and it’s possible that traces were left during manufacturing, the council said. They’ve been known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals.

The council’s tests gave readings for the compounds that were off the charts at 17,960 milligrams per kilogram.

But Samsonite commissioned independent tests from German and Hong Kong laboratories that showed levels were “significantly lower” than the council’s findings.

Those tests found 17 milligrams per kilogram of the compound, said Ramesh Tainwala, Samsonite’s Asia-Pacific and Middle East president.

“A human being has to eat 100 handles and then you have the probability of one in a billion chance of getting cancer,” he said.

The Tokyo Chic suitcases are sold mainly in Asia under Samsonite’s American Tourister Brand. The company expects to spend $500,000 on the recall, which involves 250,000 suitcases sold over the past three years.

The company said it will take about a week to replace the handles on 30,000 still in stock.

In Hong Kong, about 800 people have contacted the company about the suitcases and about 240 have asked for the handles on their bags to be replaced, Tainwala said.

Samsonite said there are no legal guidelines for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The council used guidelines set under a voluntary German scheme for its tests.

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