You know that chemical like smell that emanates from a newly opened shower curtain? Well it turns out it could be hazardous to more than just your nose. Those PVC curtains (polyvinyl chloride) contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates and organotins.
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice has just published “Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain’s Chemical Smell”, which claims more than 100 chemicals are released into the air when consumers open the packages containing the curtains.
That “new” smell sticks around too. the report found that 108 different VOCs were released into the air over a months time. AND, the level of total VOCs was over 16 times greater than the recommended guidelines for indoor air quality established by the U.S. Green Building Council.
These VOCs are linked to a variety of health problems including respiratory irritation, central nervous system problems, and liver and kidney damage.
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice, a consumer advocacy group tested curtains purchased at Wal Mart, Bed, Bath and Beyond, K-mart, Sears and Target and found unacceptable levels of toxins in a variety of brands. All five curtains tested contained phthalates DEHP and DINP, chemicals banned in children’s toys in California, Washington, and the European Union.
“The release of so many volatile organic compounds, many of which are toxic, raises serious questions about the risks PVC shower curtains pose to families, especially young children exposed to these vapors. Every effort should be made to eliminate PVC shower curtains from homes and to replace them with safer alternatives,” said CHEJ Science Director and report co-author, Stephen Lester.
So skip the cute well coordinated plastic curtain if it’s made from PVC. Most major retailers have begun to phase out these toxic contributors to indoor air pollution, so it pays to take a look at the label. Currently, both Ikea and Marks and Spenser offer only PVC- free curtains.