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General Health : Environment Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


PVC shower curtains harmful to your health
By MIke Dias
Jun 16, 2008 - 12:03:53 PM

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PVC shower curtain. Credit: CHEJ
If you're you have plans to purchase PVC shower curtain anytime from now, you might want to think again. An environmental organization has discovered that this type of curtain may pose a risk to your health because it emits a large number of toxic compounds.

Last week, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) , a U.S non-profit organization based out of Falls Church, VA which is dedicated to protecting communities from exposure to dangerous environmental chemicals, in the air, water and soil, published a report indicating that polyvinyl chloride curtains release a variety of harmful chemicals when newly unpacked and used, at least for the first month.

The PVC shower curtains are not just sold in one or two small corner stores in your neighbourhood. These products retail from many if not all national major outlets such as Wal-Mart, Target and Sears and could affect millions of people in the United States.

The title of the report: "Volatile Vinyl – The New Shower Curtain's Chemical Smell" may be deemed alarmist by some sceptical critics, but its content should be nothing to ignore.  The 44-page report summarizes a two-part study carried out on plastic shower curtains purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart.  The report provides some detailed insight into the nature of this type of curtains and lists the various chemicals and harmful elements contained which can be dangerous to our health.

 For further clarification, the PVC shower curtains were tested for two things, the concentrations of chemicals involved in the make-up of these curtains and the volatile organic compounds (VOC) present when unpacked. These volatile organic compounds are released into the atmosphere after these curtains are unpacked and hung up.

The study showed the curtains released over 108 VOCs over a 28-day period.  Twenty-eight days later 4 VOCs were still able to be detected in the air. These organic compounds have been linked to diseases such as cancer, and reproductive toxicity and they are also known to cause conditions such as kidney and liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous system and other important parts of the body.

The test meant to determine the chemical make-up of the PVC curtains found some worrisome chemicals including phthalates, which have been associated with reproductive problems such as shortened pregnancy duration in women and premature breast development in girls.  These chemicals can also cause damage to sperm and other male reproductive functions.  

The study also found that high heat and humidity promoted the release of these dangerous chemicals from the shower curtains.

Some skeptic scientists disagree with the report published and even the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has refused to ban PVC shower curtains despite the complaints of the CHEJ and the fact that 7 of the chemicals found in the study have been listed as hazardous air pollutants by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  The level of VOCs present in the curtains is 16 times higher than the recommended guidelines for indoor air quality as stipulated by the U.S Green Building Council and Washington State Indoor Air Quality Program.

Certain retailers have commenced plans to phase out PVC shower curtains but their efforts haven't been an outright and immediate ban. IKEA however has engaged in major steps to drop such curtains in favour of alternatives which are viewed as much more environmentally friendly.

Despite all the pussyfooting and apparent delays by the bureaucracy to give a final verdict on the issue, consumers are launching into action with various efforts condemning the use of PVC shower curtains and demanding that they be banned.

PVC is one of the most used forms of plastic in the world so it is apparent why there seems to be some hesitation to launch a full-scale ban on such products by the government, the economic and financial factors also have to be considered as well.

For individuals who are more concerned about their safety than what the government intends to do now or in the future, the best thing for them to do would be to replace their PVC shower curtains with options which are much more environmentally friendly such as the ethylene vinyl acetate shower curtains which are stocked by a number of major retailers in the United States and all over the globe as well.

Last week, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) , a U.S non-profit organization based out of Falls Church, VA which is dedicated to protecting communities from exposure to dangerous environmental chemicals, in the air, water and soil, published a report indicating that polyvinyl chloride curtains release a variety of harmful chemicals when newly unpacked and used, at least for the first month.

The PVC shower curtains are not just sold in one or two small corner stores in your neighbourhood. These products retail from many if not all national major outlets such as Wal-Mart, Target and Sears and could affect millions of people in the United States.

The title of the report: "Volatile Vinyl – The New Shower Curtain's Chemical Smell" may be deemed alarmist by some sceptical critics, but its content should be nothing to ignore.  The 44-page report summarizes a two-part study carried out on plastic shower curtains purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart.  The report provides some detailed insight into the nature of this type of curtains and lists the various chemicals and harmful elements contained which can be dangerous to our health.

 For further clarification, the PVC shower curtains were tested for two things, the concentrations of chemicals involved in the make-up of these curtains and the volatile organic compounds (VOC) present when unpacked. These volatile organic compounds are released into the atmosphere after these curtains are unpacked and hung up.

The study showed the curtains released over 108 VOCs over a 28-day period.  Twenty-eight days later 4 VOCs were still able to be detected in the air. These organic compounds have been linked to diseases such as cancer, and reproductive toxicity and they are also known to cause conditions such as kidney and liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous system and other important parts of the body.

The test meant to determine the chemical make-up of the PVC curtains found some worrisome chemicals including phthalates, which have been associated with reproductive problems such as shortened pregnancy duration in women and premature breast development in girls.  These chemicals can also cause damage to sperm and other male reproductive functions.  

The study also found that high heat and humidity promoted the release of these dangerous chemicals from the shower curtains.

Some skeptic scientists disagree with the report published and even the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has refused to ban PVC shower curtains despite the complaints of the CHEJ and the fact that 7 of the chemicals found in the study have been listed as hazardous air pollutants by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  The level of VOCs present in the curtains is 16 times higher than the recommended guidelines for indoor air quality as stipulated by the U.S Green Building Council and Washington State Indoor Air Quality Program.

Certain retailers have commenced plans to phase out PVC shower curtains but their efforts haven't been an outright and immediate ban. IKEA however has engaged in major steps to drop such curtains in favour of alternatives which are viewed as much more environmentally friendly.

Despite all the pussyfooting and apparent delays by the bureaucracy to give a final verdict on the issue, consumers are launching into action with various efforts condemning the use of PVC shower curtains and demanding that they be banned.

PVC is one of the most used forms of plastic in the world so it is apparent why there seems to be some hesitation to launch a full-scale ban on such products by the government, the economic and financial factors also have to be considered as well.

For individuals who are more concerned about their safety than what the government intends to do now or in the future, the best thing for them to do would be to replace their PVC shower curtains with options which are much more environmentally friendly such as the ethylene vinyl acetate shower curtains which are stocked by a number of major retailers in the United States and all over the globe as well.





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