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Originally published August 5 2008

Is Your Shower Curtain Making You Sick?

by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor

(NaturalNews) Ever buy a vinyl shower curtain and hang it up only to feel like you've been hit in the face by a wave of noxious fumes? It turns out, according to new research, that's exactly what happens.

The problem is these curtains, which sold at major retailers across the country, don't only smell horrible, but scientists have documented they are out-gassing toxic chemicals linked to serious and even deadly health problems. "This smell can make you feel sick, give you a headache, make you feel nauseous or [cause] other health effects," Michael Schade, a coauthor of the report, told the L.A. Times.

According to a newly released report by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, a national environmental organization based in Virginia, the vinyl shower curtains tested contain extremely high levels of chemicals that can cause damage to the reproductive and respiratory tracts as well as to the nervous system. What's more, vinyl chloride, a major building block of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, plastic shower curtains is a known human carcinogen that causes liver cancer.

The PVC shower curtains tested are sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has announced it has a letter to 19 major retailers detailing the new report's findings and asking them to stop selling PVC products.

The curtains were found to be loaded with toxic phthalates (chemicals specifically linked to reproductive damage) as well as seven other potentially dangerous chemicals (toluene, ethylbenzene, phenol, methyl isobutyl ketone, xylene, acetophenone and cumene) listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous air pollutants. One particularly odious curtain was found to emit some 108 volatile organic compounds –- and these chemicals persisted in the air for close to a month.

Bottom line: hanging these curtains in your bathroom is like dumping out a load of known-to-be-dangerous chemicals in your home for you, your family and your pets to breathe. Moreover, PVC shower curtains are hard to clean, often gather mold and don't decompose in landfills.

Fortunately, there are many common sense and healthy alternatives available. First of all, consider making your own shower curtain out of cotton or cotton blend (ask your local cloth and sewing supply store for the best materials to use). You can also shop online for a variety of non-toxic shower curtains including ones made of hemp, which is naturally resistant to mold and dries quickly ( , mildew-resistant linen ( or organic cotton ( .

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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