Is Your Shower Curtain Poisoning Your Family?

Don’t you just love that chemical smell of a new shower curtain? As it turns out, that smell could be poisoning your family. A recent study tested shower curtains from Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart. Key findings of the study included:

  • 108 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were released into the air from a shower curtain over a twenty-eight day period;
  • The level of total VOCs measured was over 16 times greater than the recommended guidelines for indoor air quality established by the U.S. Green Building Council.  This level persisted
  • All five curtains tested in phase one contained phthalates DEHP and DINP, chemicals banned in children’s toys in California, Washington, and the European Union;
  • Seven of the chemicals found are classified as hazardous air pollutants by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

“Taking a shower shouldn’t be harmful to your health.  It is inexcusable that toxic shower curtains are being sold to consumers, especially when cost-effective alternatives are available,” said Ivy Sager- Rosenthal, Environmental Health Advocate for the Washington Toxics Coalition.  “Consumers, especially parents, shouldn’t have to worry that a product they bring into their home will harm their children.”

Though ubiquitous in homes around the world, PVC shower curtains contain many harmful chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and phthalates. Toxic chemical off-gassing from PVC shower curtains may contribute to respiratory irritation, damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidney, nausea, headaches and loss of coordination. 

Not only do these chemicals harm human health, but they also harm wildlife. When the chemicals off-gas they either get flushed down the drain or attach to dust particles, ultimately reaching our rivers and lakes through sewage treatment plants or storm water.  Some chemicals, such as phthalates, may off-gas over many years.

What makes this even worse is that fact that heating up the curtain with hot water during a shower can actually speed up the release of these toxins. This makes taking a shower literally one of the unhealthiest things one can do in his/her day.

There are some non-toxic alternatives to the PVC shower curtains. Unfortunately, they are far more expensive and don’t last as long. Many of the non-toxic alternatives are made from things like hemp or organic cotton. As you can probably imagine, these quickly develop mold and mildew that become unsightly and cause the room to smell bad. It becomes a necessity to replace this type of shower curtain on a monthly basis in order to proactively avoid a stinky bathroom.

The only long term healthy solution is a glass shower enclosure which does not off gas any harmful chemicals. This of course is one of the reasons we love to use Pyrex glass pans to bake our brownies. We don’t want harmful chemicals in our kiddo’s desserts do we?  

Let us know what you think about this. Were you aware of the dangers of plastic shower curtains?