Toxic shower curtains

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice has found that shower curtains made with the plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) can release a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates and organotins.

Investigators tested the concentration of chemicals in five shower curtains at the time they were bought and then after 28 days. They found that 108 different VOCs were released over 28 days: after one week, 40 different VOCs were detected, after two weeks, 16; after three weeks, 11 and after four weeks, four.

For seven days after they were bought, the total VOC level was over 16 times the recommended guideline for indoor air quality as given by the US Green Building Council, while one new curtain released more VOCs than a typical residence does over four days. All five curtains when they were bought contained phthalates DEHP and DINP, chemicals that several states in the US and the EU have banned from children's toys.

The investigators said the tests did not simulate the exact conditions typically found in a shower, such as temperature and humidity, but if they had, they suggest the results would have shown greater concentrations of chemicals.

Phthalates have been linked to reproductive problems including sperm damage in men and shorter pregnancies. VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea, loss of coordination and headaches and learning disabilities in children whose mothers were exposed before their birth.

Read more about toxic shower curtains

First published in September 2008

More miscellaneous research reports on allergy

Top of page