PVC Shower Curtains: What's Next?

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As reported over the last 2 days, shower curtains made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pose a variety of health hazards. They release toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a problem that “raises serious questions about the risks PVC shower curtains pose to families, especially young children exposed to these vapors,” says study coauthor Stephen Lester, science director for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.


“Every effort should be made to eliminate PVC shower curtains from homes and to replace them with safer alternatives,” he says.

“Six years after the EPA found that PVC shower curtains continue to release toxic chemicals into the air we breathe for a month or longer, our study shows that nothing has changed,” adds Lois Gibbs, CHEJ’s founder and executive director. “Something must be done to protect consumers from any potential harm these toxic chemicals cause. Wal-Mart and other retailers need to phase out these toxic chemicals. As Congress is considering a variety of chemical policy reforms, it must address the reality that no legal authority currently exists to enable the federal government to regulate consumer products which release toxic chemicals into the air inside our homes—air our children breathe every day.”

CHEJ has issued the following recommendations to protect consumers, workers and communities from PVC:

  • The Federal Toxic Substances Control Act is 30 years old and must be updated to regulate consumer products that contribute to indoor air pollution and cause health harm.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission should immediately recall all PVC shower curtains from store shelves.
  • Manufacturers and retailers should switch to safer products like organic cotton shower curtains.
  • Government at all levels should act quickly to ban the use of PVC in shower curtains.
  • Consumers should avoid purchasing shower curtains made with PVC. Buy shower curtains with labels that indicate content.

“The good news is that families can take simple steps to protect their health by avoiding shower curtains made with PVC and choosing healthier products,” says Michael Schade, report coauthor and coordinator of CHEJ’s PVC campaign.

To date, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea, JCPenney, Sears/Kmart, Macy’s and Target have developed plans to offer more PVC-free shower curtains, but not all have set total phase-out plans and goals, as Ikea has.

“It’s unconscionable that companies can sell us products that pollute our indoor air quality,” says Mary Brune, director of Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS).I’m a mom, and I’m also 6 months pregnant. The last thing I want is to take a shower next to something that releases chemicals linked to reproductive toxicity and cancer. Safer materials exist, so getting rid of shower curtains made from PVC is not only necessary from a health standpoint, but economically feasible, too.”

Photo by Stacey Vaeth

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