I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now and it’s not meant to scare the bejesus out of you, I just want you to have the information you need to make informed decisions when it comes to the products you use and consume daily.
One of those being the shower curtain. Like many things in the home, the shower curtain is one of those innocuous things that we don’t give much thought too, we use it to keep water from splashing everywhere. But did you know that it’s one of the most toxic things you have in your home?
Most shower curtains are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a thermoplastic made from 57% chlorine (derived from industrial grade salt) and 43% carbon (derived predominantly from oil/gas via ethylene), PVC is used to make pipes, pipe fittings, pipe conduits, vinyl flooring, and vinyl siding. PVC is made softer and more flexible by the addition of phthalates. Bisphenol A (BPA) is also used to make PVC plastics that contain high levels of chlorine and this is where the problem lies.
All of these toxins off-gas in your home, adding to indoor air pollution, which in many cases can be 5-10 times higher than outdoor air pollution.
A study from 2008 examined PVC shower curtains (sold at major retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart) found that the curtains “contain avoidable toxic chemicals including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates, organotins, and metals.”
The research also highlighted the fact that a PVC curtain can release up to 108 VOCs. VOCs that you are breathing in when you stand in the shower and to make matters worse, these little particles can hang around in your home for up to a month after you open the packaging.
Along with the concern of VOC’s there is also the major concern regarding all the other toxins that can cause nausea, headaches, damage to the nervous system and even cancer.
PVC is listed as a human carcinogen in the Fourteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program. Dioxins, phthalates, and BPA are suspected to be endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity of hormones in the human endocrine system. TCDD dioxin is listed as a human carcinogen, and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate is listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in the Fourteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program.
So what can you do?
Well, like I have said many times on this blog, avoid plastic as much as you can in your home. Opt for organic cotton, linen, and my top pick, hemp, mostly because it naturally resists mildew and I find that you don’t need that toxic liner after all.
A quick word on PEVA, it’s become a cheap, “healthier” alternative to PVC, and I must admit I have talked about it being a better alternative, but after some more in-depth research, specifically, this study published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences, I am must more hesitant to recommend it. Stick with natural fibers and be aware of labels that claim to be “mold” and “mildew resistant”, oftentimes these curtains have been sprayed with an antimicrobial chemical that could be toxic to humans.