New report reveals significant levels of phthalates and VOCs in PVC and vinyl shower curtains

New laboratory tests reveal the familiar “new shower curtain smell” may be toxic to our health. Polyvinyl
chloride (PVC) plastic shower curtains purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart all contain avoidable toxic chemicals including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates, organotins and metals. Some of these chemicals are volatile, so they are released into the air inside our homes.

This new study reveals that PVC shower curtains can release as many as 108 volatile organic chemicals.
Some of these chemicals cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems. In addition, some chemicals were found in the air 28 days after a PVC shower curtain was unwrapped and hung. This investigation shows that PVC shower curtains are significant
contributors to indoor air pollution. Volatile Vinyl—The New Shower Curtain’s Chemical Smell summarizes the results of a two-part laboratory study of the toxic chemicals contained in and released from PVC shower
curtains. The first part of this study measured the concentration of chlorine, phthalates, organotins and metals in five PVC shower curtains and VOCs in one curtain purchased at popular retailers. The second part measured the concentrations of VOCs evaporating from a shower.

Key Findings
PVC Shower Curtains Release Over 100 Chemicals into the Air.

• 108 different volatile organic compounds were released from the shower curtain into the air over the course of the study.
• Toluene, cyclohexanone, methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), phenol, and ethylbenzene were detected in the greatest concentration during the 28-day period. The USEPA also found all of these substances except cyclohexanone in a study of chemicals off-gassing from PVC shower curtains.
• Forty different VOCs were detected in the chamber after 7 days; 16 VOCs were detected after 14 days; 11 after 21 days; and 4 after 28 days.............

PVC Shower Curtains Contain High Levels of Phthalates.
• All five curtains tested contained the phthalates di(2-ethyl hexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP)...........

Click here for the rest of the key findings and the full report.


Click here for further articles on environmental condtiions

First Published in December 2009

Top of page