Vinyl shower curtains release 100 toxic chemicals, study finds
MICHELLE LALONDE, The Gazette Published: Friday, June 13, 2008
That smell given off by new vinyl shower curtains isn't just annoying - it might also be hazardous to your health, says a study issued yesterday by Canadian and U.S. environmental groups.
The study's authors say more than 100 different toxic chemicals are released into the air by shower curtains and shower curtain liners made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Since some of these chemicals are volatile, or airborne, they can be inhaled.
The report says gas given off by PVC curtains might contribute to such health problems as respiratory trouble, damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys, nausea, headaches and loss of co-ordination.
Combined exposure to the multiple chemicals released from vinyl shower curtains is cause for concern, especially for children, as they are more sensitive to toxic chemicals," said Aaron Freeman, policy director at Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based group dedicated to protecting the environment and human health.
The study by the U.S.-based Centre for Health, Environment and Justice was made public in Canada by the Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
The Canadian groups are recommending the federal government ban PVC in shower curtains, expand labelling rules to help consumers avoid PVC in other products, declare some of the chemicals emitted from PVC as hazardous indoor air pollutants and regulate their use in consumer products.
"The federal government has a window of opportunity to proactively regulate these chemicals with a major bill before Parliament to amend the federal
Hazardous Products Act," said CELA executive director Theresa
The study tested five PVC shower curtains purchased from retail outlets (Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart) in the United States. Only one of the brands tested is also sold in Canadian stores, but most major department stores in Canada sell vinyl shower curtains similar to those tested.
Testing showed 108 different volatile organic compounds were released into the air from a vinyl shower curtain over a 28 days.
All of the brands tested contained di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate and diisononyl phthalate. These chemicals have been banned in children's toys in California, Washington and the European Union. Canada has listed DEHP as a toxic substance and recommended it be banned from children's products, but such a ban has not yet been implemented.
Other chemical found in the curtains (such as ethylbenzene, methyl isobutyl ketone, and cyclohexanone) are considered a human health concern under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, but are not regulated.
The plastics industry, however, says the vinyl curtains are harmless and that the study is an example of environmental fear-mongering that should not be taken seriously.
"Vinyl shower curtains have been on the market for decades with no reported incidents of harm," said Marion Axmith, director of the Vinyl Council of Canada, a wing of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association. "Just because a chemical has been detected doesn't mean it's harmful."
A statement issued by the Vinyl Council of Canada explains the smell released from vinyl shower curtains this way: "Vinyl products are made from a polymer, polyvinyl chloride - an odourless powder - to which ingredients are added that will give the desired end-product properties.
"The process is a bit like making pasta or baked goods, starting with flour, adding ingredients and heating and moulding the mix.
"New shower curtain smells come from the ingredients added to make the product, but, as with many products that have initial odours, they soon fade. People with sensitivities to new product smells usually find that airing a shower curtain out for a few days will solve the problem."
The environmental groups recommend that rather than airing vinyl shower curtains, consumers avoid them all together.
Jennifer Foulds of Environmental Defence said cotton curtains work well to keep water off the bathroom floor and can be washed in the washing machine.
She said she hopes manufacturers will "step up to the plate" and stop selling vinyl shower curtains, rather than wait for the government to act, just as many retailers have stopped selling polycarbonate baby bottles containing bisphenol A, a hormone disruptor associated with adverse health effects.
To view the report on vinyl shower curtains, called Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain's Chemical Smell, go to www.
toxicnation.ca or www.cela.ca
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008
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06-13-2008, 01:32 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
Toxic Vapours From Pvc Shower Curtains
06-14-2008, 01:53 PM #2
Looks like it's time for bubble baths again.
. " Like making pasta ".....??????
06-15-2008, 01:27 AM #3
I'll stick to my glass shower screen..."Professional" means your attitude to the job...
Nullus Anxietas ..... (T Pratchett)
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