by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée
When detoxing your home, it can be overwhelming to think of replacing each little item with nontoxic versions. However, the opportunity of replacing each little item is that it can be done incrementally, one item at a time. In the bathroom, shower curtains are one of the little things that can be replaced without a lot of hassle or a lot of cost.
Why replace the shower curtain?
When you open a new shower curtain, it has a distinctive new-shower-curtain smell. That smell is flexible plastic called polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC or vinyl. Most shower curtains are made of vinyl. A few of the chemicals that can be found in PVC are listed below.
- Dioxins: May contribute to low sperm count, and affect the reproductive, nervous and immune systems. Over 150 chemicals fall into the category of dioxins.(1) Dioxins are stored in fatty tissue. They stay in the body longer and have been known to be toxic in very small amounts.
- Ethylene dichloride: May cause cancer and affecting the central nervous system and organs(2), namely the liver and kidneys.(3)
- Vinyl chloride: Affects organ development, heart, blood vessels, liver, and immune system.(5) Potentially cancer-causing in any exposure amount.(4)
- BPA: Can affect development in babies, the immune system, and the endocrine system, which affects nearly every cell, organ and function in our body.(6) BPA can be disruptive even in very low doses.
All four chemicals release VOCs or SVOCs into the air, which pollute indoor air. Furthermore, hot, humid conditions facilitate off-gassing—precisely the conditions in a bathroom.
What are safer alternatives?
Below are a range of shower "curtain" options.
- Glass doors. While they are more expensive than shower curtains, glass shower doors are an excellent alternative to a safe shower curtain when considering chemical emissions and growth of mold and mildew.
- Natural Material Shower Curtains. Shower curtains come in natural materials, such as organic cotton or hemp. It’s important to note that these materials may require more care as they are more likely to develop mold. They can be washed with hydrogen peroxide and laundry soap to kill and remove mold; steam cleaning helps too.(7)
- Polyester or Nylon. Polyester and nylon are synthetic materials made from oil-byproducts. They are typically treated with chemical (synthetic) dyes and finishes. Compared to vinyl shower curtains, polyester and nylon are better alternatives, but they may not be as nontoxic as 100% organic cotton and hemp.
- PVC-Free. Look for shower curtains that are PVC-free. PVC-free shower curtains sometimes are advertised as PEVA or EVA shower curtains. While PEVA and EVA shower curtains are still made of chemicals, they are thought to be a better option than PVC. A quick Google search shows that several major retail stores carry PVC-free shower curtains and liners in a variety of styles and colors.
Changing even the small things, like shower curtains, can improve your indoor air quality and reduce chemicals in your home. Especially in rooms such as the bathroom that typically have higher heat and humidity conditions. Shower curtains are among the many items that can be replaced with little cost and effort as you detox your bathroom.
For more tips to detox your bathroom, subscribe below to detox your home and life at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
(2) (4) A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 1
(1) A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 2
(7) A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Parts 3 and 4
(3) National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
(5) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2011
(6) Kids Health