Recently I decided to wash the shower curtain. There were little spots of mildew forming and I'm pretty sure that mildew is evil stuff ... kind of like a science fiction creature that will eventually take over the planet if we don't stop it. So I carefully took down the curtain and tossed it into the washer. Later, when I went to transfer the wet laundry to the dryer, my shower curtain had disappeared. In it's place were these strange shreds of plastic. Who knew that the washer could destroy ... or rather ... eat a plastic shower curtain?
So ... a quick trip to my favorite dollar store and I had a new, lovely, inexpensive shower curtain ... a real bargain. Opening the package released that less than lovely plastic smell ... but still ... it looked beautiful, matching the decor perfectly.
Some time later, while browsing the Internet, an article on the toxic affects of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) shower curtains jumped out at me. Yep ... you read that right ... PVC shower curtains are toxic ... in a big way.
According to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, PVC showers curtains are hazardous (you can read their report here: http://www.chej.org/showercurtainreport/ )
Here's a little of what they say about it:
• PVC shower curtains can release as many as 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
into the air. VOCs are chemicals that easily turn into gases and contaminate our air.
• Some of these chemicals cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver
and central nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Some can cause cancer in
animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.
• The Environmental Protection Agency’s classifies 7 of the chemicals released as
hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
• Some chemicals were found in the air 28 days after a PVC shower curtain was
unwrapped and hung.
• 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 and
Washington State Indoor Air Quality Program, violating these guidelines for no less than
• PVC shower curtains contain high levels of phthalates. Some phthalates have been
linked to reproductive problems including shorter pregnancy duration and premature
breast development in girls, sperm damage and impaired reproductive development in
• PVC shower curtains contain organotins, which can affect the central nervous system,
skin, liver, immune system and reproductive system.
• PVC shower curtains can contain one or more of these metals: lead, cadmium, mercury
While hanging that shower curtain, the smell gave me a headache. I dismissed it, thinking that perhaps it was allergies or my tendency to get migraines. Now I wonder ... perhaps it was toxic compounds attacking my system.
A shower curtain seems like such an innocent thing. So do plastic bags, utensils and containers. It is, however, another example of how small things can hurt us ... and the environment. It is important to pay attention, read labels and learn about the products that we deal with on a daily basis. Not doing so can have severe consequences.
I'll be heading to the store to buy a new shower curtain ... something made of cloth. It'll probably be a little more expensive than the plastic version ... but then again ... in terms of our health and that of the earth ... it'll be the true bargain.
As always ... I would love to hear from you!