There is toxic poison lurking in most bathrooms: the ordinary vinyl or plastic shower curtain.
Have you caught a whiff of one as you cracked open the packaging? Did it have that distinct vinyl smell that perhaps made you vaguely nauseous?
A recent study by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice tells the grim story: that smell from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic shower curtains is toxic to your health. Among the key findings:
- 108 toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) were found to be released into the air– and the warm, moist environment of the shower would likely intensify the effect. One shower curtain they tested contained so many VOC’s that the analytical equipment went off the scale.
- Total VOC’s measured was over 16 times higher than the recommended guidelines from the US Green Building Council.
- Seven of the chemicals released by the tested shower curtains are classified as hazardous by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.
- The tested shower curtains even contained toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium.
According to the authors, VOC’s can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; and even damage to the liver, kidneys, reproductive system, immune system, and central nervous system. Some VOC’s cause cancer in animals and may do so in humans.
It’s incredible that such a toxic substance would be sold in every major outlet to unsuspecting consumers. There’s good news, though: most stores such as Ikea and Target have either phased out these poisonous shower curtains entirely or are offering non-PVC alternatives. I bought one myself recently at Target, and it was only a couple of dollars more expensive than its poisonous cousins–definitely worth it for a non toxic alternative.
When shopping for a shower curtain, look for a statement on the package that states it is PVC free. Better yet, eschew plastic altogether and go for fabric shower curtains. Replacing a PVC based shower curtain will go a long way towards ensuring a greener, non toxic home.