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Los Angeles, California

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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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New Shower Curtain Smell Linked to Health and Environmental Problems

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Beware of the smell that comes from a newly purchased vinyl shower curtain, say health experts. Vinyl shower curtains that are sold at major retailers throughout the country contain a chemical that causes serious health problems, such as liver damage, and damage to the central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems.

Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart are among the major retailers that sell vinyl shower curtains that contain high concentrations of chemicals that may be released into the air, according to researchers for the Virginia-based Center for Health, Environment & Justice. These malodorous chemicals can persist for almost a month and can initially make consumers feel sick, lightheaded and also nauseous, among other short term health problems.

The Los Angeles Times reported today that, “Five unopened polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic shower curtains were purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart and tested for their chemical composition. One of these curtains was then tested to determine the chemicals it released into the air [. . .] The study found that these shower curtains contained high concentrations of phthalates and varying concentrations of organotins and that they released as many as 108 volatile organic chemicals into the air [. . .] Seven of these chemicals, which include toluene, ethylbenzene, phenol, MIBK, xylene, acetophenone, and cumene, were identified by the EPA as hazardous air pollutants,” (Los Angeles Times, 6/12/08).

If you plan on purchasing a new shower curtain anytime soon, there are several types of shower curtains manufactured from non-hazardous material. A few alternative shower curtain materials that work well: plastic, cotton and hemp. The latter material is also naturally resistant to mold, unlike vinyl shower curtains. Also, cotton and hemp shower curtains are easy to clean as you can wash the curtain with your laundry as needed.