Get excited! It’s the first week of the Green Around the House Challenge. And as promised, our first challenge is greening your shower curtain. Why? This everyday object might be causing more problems than you think, starting with air pollution.
I have to admit, I certainly wasn’t thinking green when I bought my shower curtain a couple years ago. I was thinking blue, as in my blue bathroom color scheme. Fortunately, my chic blue-and-white embroidered curtain of choice was made of cotton. But the shower liner reeked of PVC.
Yes, reeked. My bathroom is teeny-tiny, so the liner’s icky, plastic-y odor infiltrated the space within minutes—and lingered. And that’s when I wised up to the dangers of PVC. Here’s why you should too:
The Problem Plastic Revealed
As I mentioned above, that unmistakable stench coming from your shower curtain is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a (sadly) popular plastic also known as vinyl. PVC is produced with toxic additives that can evaporate or leach out of the product. And it enters your body when you least expect it, whether through inhalation or direct skin or eye contact. This not-so-pleasant plastic has been linked to a slew of nasty health and environmental problems, including cancer, liver damage, and reproductive and immune system problems.
It gets even worse. A recent study by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, a grassroots environmental organization based in Falls Church, Virginia, revealed disturbing facts about PVC shower curtains—that’s why it’s called Volatile Vinyl. (Download the Volatile Vinyl report here.) According to the report, PVC shower curtains can release as many as 108 volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into the air you regularly breathe. What’s more, some of these chemicals were found in the air 28 days after a PVC shower curtain was opened and hung. No wonder I got a headache while putting on makeup in the bathroom each morning. That’s a long time, folks!
End the Toxic Relationship—For Good
So, aside from that unmistakable stench, how can you tell if your shower curtain is made from PVC? Look for a “3” within the plastic recycling symbol or check to see if there’s a “V” stamped in the plastic.
If you recently purchased a PVC shower curtain, let it air out for a month before hanging it. Or, if you’re in the market for a new shower curtain but haven’t purchased one yet, shop for an eco-friendly cloth version—try organic cotton or linen (just make sure you have good ventilation to ward off mildew). Another option? Hemp is durable and naturally mildew-resistant. Or try recycled polyester plastic. When shopping for liners, opt for one made of nylon. Launch your search for eco-friendly options at Gaiam, Health Goods, Pristine Planet, and IKEA.
It’s becoming easier than ever to find non-PVC shower curtains and liners, because many major retailers and manufacturers are pulling the plug on the pesky plastic. IKEA, for example, phased out PVC shower curtains 11 years ago, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Of course, once you set your sights on a newer, healthier shower curtain, another issue arises: getting rid of the old one. PVC shower curtains clog already-full landfills because they don’t break down. And they don’t play well with other plastics, making them a challenge to recycle. Green Daily offers some ideas for putting that old vinyl curtain to good use.
Here’s to healthy breathing and safer showers.
The Home Know-It-All