Is Your Shower Curtain Toxic & Making You Sick?

Summary – Typical Shower curtains outgas highly toxic chemicals that can get you sick, cause your body to store fat, and lead to cancer. The best solution is to buy a hemp or other natural fiber one, linked below.   

PVC Shower Curtains

If you’ve ever purchased a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) shower curtain before, you that overpowering plasticky scent that fills the entire bathroom quickly after the curtain is removed from the bag. Well that’s highly-harmful toxins that get into our body our pores and our lungs that cause all types of health problems including a variety of illnesses and levels of damage to your heart, lungs, reproductive organs, and more in addition to possibly causing cancer. (EPA.gov)

Chemicals Released

These PVC toxins include dioxins, phthalates, ethylene dichloride, lead, BPAs, and more are further released from heat and moisture from the shower breaking down the plastic liner.

The chemicals released as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), may cause respiratory irritation; damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys; nausea, headaches, and lack of coordination. The most common symptoms that occur with exposure to VOCs include eye irritation, nose and throat discomfort, breathing problems, allergic skin reactions, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, and nosebleeds.

In June 2008, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, a nonprofit environmental organization reported on a study that found that new shower curtains released:

  • As many as 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air
  • This is 16 times greater than the recommended guidelines for indoor air quality established by the U.S. Green Building Council
  • Some off-gassed chemicals persisted for nearly a month after the curtain was removed from the packaging
  • Seven of the chemicals — toluene, ethylbenzene, phenol, methyl isobutyl ketone, xylene, acetophenone, and cumene — have been identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as hazardous air pollutants
  • Even after 40 weeks, VOCs were still detected in the air.

Vinyl chloride, which is a major building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that causes liver cancer, said Stephen Lester, the center’s science director and a co-author of the report.

  • The concentration of Total VOCs in the Wal-Mart tested shower curtain was so high that the analytical equipment was saturated and further testing had to be halted so that lab equipment would not be damaged.
  • All five curtains tested in phase one contained phthalates DEHP and DINP, chemicals banned in children’s toys in California, Washington, and the European Union.
  • Considering this testing did not replicate temperature and humidity conditions typically found in a shower, it would likely increase the concentrations of volatile pollutants released from a PVC curtain into the air of a bathroom; concentrations of these chemicals are likely to be even greater during and after a shower than those reported in this study.

Some of these chemicals are known as Obesogens and can cause you to gain weight, slow your metabolism, and more regardless of what you eat.

The culprit is polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-dubbed The Plastic Poison-and PVC is often listed as "vinyl" on packaging, making this whole issue a little complicated. As a rule of thumb, unless you absolutely know a shower curtain is not PVC, don't buy it. Use the smell test in the store. The stronger the smell is through the packaging the more you do not want it! 

Chemicals found in PVC are (partial list)

  • Dioxins: May contribute to low sperm count, and affect the reproductive, nervous and immune systems. Over 150 chemicals fall into the category of dioxins. Dioxins are stored in fatty tissue. They stay in the body longer and have been known to be toxic in very small amounts. 
  • Ethylene dichloride: May cause cancer and affecting the central nervous system and organs, namely the liver and kidneys.
  • Vinyl chloride: Affects organ development, heart, blood vessels, liver, and immune system. Potentially cancer-causing in any exposure amount.
  • BPA: Can affect development in babies, the immune system, and the endocrine system, which affects nearly every cell, organ and function in our body. BPA can be disruptive even in very low doses.

Shower Curtains to Avoid:

  • PVC and Vinyl  
  • “Mold & Mildew Resistant” If it says this, that means extra chemicals are added to shower liner. No one likes mildew, so when you get out of the shower, lightly spray the bottom of shower curtains with some tea tree essential oil. Add several drops to a small spray bottle with a cup of water. The more drops the stronger the scent and disinfecting capabilities. About 5-10 drops per cup of water. This also works on the corners of the tub cutting down on the mold and mildew that grows there.
  • Nylon - 100% nylon plastic shower curtains are in fact PVC free, but they are still not the good because a) they are made out of plastic b) still contain harsh chemicals c) and have a lasting environmental impact.
  • PEVA Shower Curtain (Better but not a good solution) -  What is PEVA? (sometimes called EVA) is an alternative to PVC that excludes the harmful polyvinyl chloride. This makes it safer and less toxic, BUT, it still uses petrochemicals and has volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Although less toxic, PEVA is not a good alternative to PVC.

Solutions:

  • To start look for PVC-free shower curtains, or PVC alternative – non-toxic shower curtain
  • Glass doors
  • Hemp Shower Curtain - Hemp is one of the best nontoxic shower curtain options available. Hemp shower curtain doesn’t need a vinyl liner and it is the only fabric shower curtain that does not require it. When a shower curtain is made from hemp canvas, the fabric is tightly woven so water will not leak through. Hemp shower curtain can be used alone or also used as a liner. Hemp is also naturally resistant to bacteria and fungi. It absorbs water to some degree but dries very quickly. Hemp shower curtain is also strong and heavy.  It is free of plastic, toxins, chemicals outgassing and also biodegradable when disposed. It is also machine washable. It cost a little more but will last for over 10 years and considering it will not get you sick it’s actually cheaper.

https://amzn.to/36S995d

https://amzn.to/2NyHTRO

  • Cotton Blend Shower Curtain - Cotton is one of the most popular materials in the world, so it’s not surprising that it shows up as an option for your shower curtain. When combined with polyester, these materials form an anti-bacterial and strong fabric that will resist stains and protect your bathroom floors. I personally don’t like polyester as they leach microfibers into the water when washing but that’s your choice. Cotton curtains will absorb water because they are made from woven cotton, but they dry quickly so avoiding mold shouldn’t be too hard and if you need to clean them, they’re machine washable. Best of all – no toxins. The price of your cotton shower curtain will depend on if you go for a blend of raw cotton, but in general, they will be cheaper than a hemp curtain but more than the other choices.

https://amzn.to/2Q5V9iu

https://amzn.to/2CxN1z6

  • Linen – non toxic shower curtain - Linen is another natural material similar to hemp or cotton that is biodegradable. However, linen will also absorb water to some degree. Both cotton and linen will develop mold and mildew easier whereas hemp is naturally mold and mildew resistant. But it will not outgas toxic chemicals like PVC.

https://amzn.to/32yo0yy

  • Nylon Shower Curtain - (My least favorite of the above mentioned) Nylon falls directly between PEVA and cotton blend/hemp in terms of fabric type. Nylon is not quite waterproof like plastic, but also doesn’t absorb water like cotton. It is water-resistant, making it a strong option for a shower curtain. You’re less likely to have mold forming due to absorbed water, and you’re subjected to fewer chemicals than with PVC or PEVA curtains. Unfortunately, nylon usually contains some of the chemicals in PEVA to aid in the water-resistance. It is definitely safer, relatively cost-efficient, and least likely to develop mold, but not the safest.

https://amzn.to/2Q52cb8

Other Bathroom Toxins

Bathmats – typically made with phthalates and dioxins. Get an organic cotton one and a mat without synthetic backing, like this one

https://amzn.to/32JLbG3

Other All-Natural Beauty Care Links You Will Like:

  https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-jun-13-me-showercurtain13-story.html http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/Volatile%20Vinyl%20-%20REP%20008.pdf  http://archive.chej.org/campaigns/pvc/resources/shower-curtain-report/ https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MMG/MMG.asp?id=278&tid=84 https://www.shechangeseverything.com/blog/2017/7/27/whats-a-girl-to-do-about-shower-curtains?rq=shower