Most typical shower curtains pollute indoor air with unhealthy chemicals! Instead, opt for one of these four safe, non-toxic shower curtains.
Not so fun fact: indoor air can be up to 7 times more polluted than outdoor air.
Yep, even more polluted than the air in big cities like New York and San Fransisco!
“In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.” — US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
So what’s causing this indoor air pollution?
It’s a culmination of a lot of different things, including seemingly insignificant products like candles, cleaners, and shower curtains.
I know, I know. Who would think that a little ol’ shower curtain could be polluting your home!? But actually, the facts are pretty startling…
Most shower curtains are made with PVC and have been shown to release over 100 chemicals into the air!
If you’ve ever purchased a PVC shower curtain before, you know the scent that accompanies it, that overpowering plasticy scent that fills up the entire bathroom quickly after the curtain is removed from the bag. Whew, is it rough!
Well this overpowering scent is actually unhealthy chemicals off-gassing (i.e. being released) into the air!
OK OK so how many and what kind of chemicals are we talking about here?
Well a few years back, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice conducted a laboratory study of PVC curtains. The curtains tested were purchased from Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Walmart, K-Mart and Sears. Here’s what they found:
- 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.
Despite the fact that VOC concentrations are higher in indoor air than outdoor air, and that studies show that VOCs pose a significant health threat, no federal agency has the legal authority to regulate the chemical composition of consumer products:
“While we do regulate VOCs in outdoor air from an indoor air perspective, EPA has no authority to regulate household products (or any other aspect of indoor air quality)… Even if we had authority to regulate indoor air quality, it would be difficult to regulate household products because we have no authority to collect information on the chemical content of products in the marketplace (not does any Federal Agency)” – EPA representative.
Fortunately, there are a number of non-PVC shower curtain alternatives to choose from.
Most Eco-Friendly Non-Toxic Shower Curtains
Cotton | Cotton is an obvious choice for a non-toxic shower curtain but does absorb water. Though they dry fairly quickly, a cotton curtain wasn’t an option for me since I use a decorative outer curtain. However, this is an alternative to consider if you do not use a decorative curtain.
Hemp | Hemp is naturally mildew resistant and fast-drying, which make it a great material for a shower curtain. The downside: hemp curtains come with a larger price-tag and like cotton curtains, do absorb water.
Most Practical Non-Toxic Shower Curtains
Polyester | Much like cotton, polyester curtains do absorb water but are fast-drying. Unlike cotton curtains, they are more likely to retain their shape after being washed. A lot of hotels use polyester shower curtains, so chances are you already have experience with them!
PEVA or EVA | PEVA or EVA curtains are probably the most easily accessible and affordable non-PVC option. They are not perfect as they are still petrochemical products, but they are a step in the right direction in the attempt to find green polymers. While I was at first hesitant to purchase another plastic liner, PEVA curtains do not come with the horrible scent (i.e. the VOCs off-gassing) that accompanies PVC curtains, and are a much safer option. As I use a decorative outer curtain, I have found this to be the best option for me. And since they can be easily cleaned with a good scrubbing, they will last quite a long time and won’t simply be another plastic item in the landfill (another reason I was hesitant to buy plastic).