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Should I really care about what kind of shower curtain I use?

Have you ever opened up a package of plastic shower curtain and thought. Oh man, this thing smells like chemicals?

Me too.

Well guess what that smell is?!? Toxic gases being released from opening up the package. Yuck!

Ever heard of the term PVC and wondered why it’s bad. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is sometimes just listed as “vinyl” on a package. In 2008, some Canadian environmental researchers from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice published a report explaining just how bad those shower curtains are.

The researchers tested PVC plastic shower curtains from Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart and found the curtains released 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of the chemicals were still found in the air 28 days after taking the curtain out of the package and hanging it up. So much for airing out the chemicals…

So this report was written ten years ago, things have changed right? Well I did a quick search for vinyl shower curtains and found that Walmart still carries a 100% vinyl shower curtain. While the packaging doesn’t show what makes up the vinyl, it does include a warning required by California’s Proposition 65.

Some additional highlights from the report:

• Forty different VOCs were detected after 7 days; 16 VOCs after 14 days; 11 after 21 days; and 4 after
28 days.

• The level of Total VOCs measured was over 16 times greater than recommended in the U.S. Green Building Council and Washington State Indoor Air Quality Program guidelines for indoor air quality.

• Seven of the chemicals released by the shower curtain are classified as hazardous air pollutants by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

• VOCs can cause serious health effects including eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidney, and the central nervous system. Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

So what’s a replacement for that plastic shower curtain? I recently bought this one for our family. I like that the fabric liner snaps off for easy washing.

Do you have a plastic shower curtain? Ready to make the switch?