That familiar “shower curtain smell” that you whiff when you open a package of the gaily colored vinyl drapes may be hazardous to your health.
In fact, a new report by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice said the smell from most vinyl shower curtains is really a potpourri of 100 or more toxic chemicals that the group says can present health problems.
The group called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to immediately order a recall of all PVC shower curtains from store shelves. As well, it called on retailers — some of which previously announced they would phase out harmful products — to stop selling the curtains and liners.
“These chemicals shouldn’t be allowed in our products, homes or bodies,” said Kathleen Schuler of Healthy Legacy, a Minneapolis advocacy group that released the report.
A unique chemical stew
The smell is unique to PVC vinyl curtains and liners. The report said that among the chemical stew are phthalates, organotins, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to respiratory irritation, liver and kidneys damage, and can promote nausea, headaches and loss of coordination.
The report’s authors said they purchased PVC vinyl shower curtains at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart to use as laboratory samples. They found that harmful chemicals were released from the curtains and liners over a 28-day period, and the VOC levels were 16 times greater than guidelines for indoor air set by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Moreover, all curtains tested contained phthalates DEHP and DINP, chemicals banned in children’s toys in California, Washington and the European Union.
Six years later, same findings
The report’s findings mirrored those of a 2002 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that found elevated levels of chemicals in the vinyl.
The authors said that “nothing has changed” since the EPA’s report of six years ago.
Schuler said that people could protect themselves by avoiding PVC vinyl. The only Twin Cities retailer listed by the group as selling safe curtains is Ikea, which has an outlet next to the Mall of America.
The report says the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, continues to sell PVC shower curtains despite its stated commitment to environmental sustainability. Bed Bath and Beyond, JC Penney, Sears/Kmart, Macy’s and Target have all developed plans to offer more PVC-free shower curtains.