Please pass on the plastic

Just another weblog

#35–shower curtain reminder August 8, 2008

Filed under: healthy baby,healthy home,no more plastic — michelleodonoghue @ 9:34 am

Sent to me, a reminder of the dangers of the not-so-innocent shower curtain:

Toxic threat in your shower?

Environmental group’s testing shows vinyl curtains emit volatile, dangerous chemicals
By JULIE A. VARUGHESE, Special to the Times Union
First published: Friday, June 13, 2008
ALBANY — If you use a vinyl shower curtain, you may want to wear a gas mask in the shower, according to an environmental group that found the material releases toxic chemicals that are linked to respiratory illnesses and other ailments.What consumers are buying is not just a “water barrier,” said Barbara Warren, executive director of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, a statewide environmental group. “Instead, what you’re bringing home is a toxic cloud.”




The Virginia-based Center for Health, Environment & Justice released test results Thursday that show curtains made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) emit more than 100 volatile organic compounds. Some of these chemicals — which can cause headaches and other problems — could be detected by special equipment up to 28 days after unfolding the curtains. The curtains were purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart.

The total level of chemicals was 16 times greater than what is allowed by the U.S. Green Building Council’s guidelines for indoor air quality. The concentration of chemicals in a curtain purchased at Wal-Mart was so high, testing had to stop to protect lab equipment.

Some curtains also contained heavy metals such as lead, which causes neurological problems, and phthalates, which have been linked to endocrine system disruption.

As a result, the nonprofit organization is pushing for federal and state regulations to ban its sale.

Some retailers have already agreed to phase out sales, said Anne Rabe, BE SAFE campaign coordinator for the group. But that won’t happen immediately.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released similar test results in 2002, Warren said, and those emissions were in violation of the Clean Air Act.

Other shower curtains are made of organic cotton, polyester or polyethylene vinyl acetate. They are more expensive than the PVC products.

Julie Varughese, an environmental journalism fellow from the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting at the University of Rhode Island, can be reached at 454-5587 or by e-mail at


One Response to “#35–shower curtain reminder”

  1. kathryn dennett Says:

    are ones that are PVC free ok (well, not so toxic)? what are other alternatives. i tried not using one and it ruined our shower curtain. please advise!!

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