Photo: Jessica Sain-Baird

Most shower curtains contain smelly, dangerous plastics.

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Cherished Curtains
There are smells that I grew up with that I once thought were good things. I believed the smell of bleach equaled clean and the scent of plastic shower curtains made them new. I now know better. The 2008 Center for Health, Environment and Justice report, Volatile Vinyl, determined a sampling of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shower curtain released up to 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which lingered nearly a month after the curtains were hung.

As I have detailed in this series, VOCs are known to cause health problems ranging from headaches to respiratory problems and may be possible carcinogens. Each of the curtains tested (purchased at big box stores) contained phthalates (known endocrine disruptors) and heavy metals including mercury and lead. PVC is commonly used in everything from shower curtains to car interiors and is increasingly known as the "poison plastic." There is no safe way to manufacture or dispose of PVC because of the host of chemicals contained within it. PVC creates toxic emissions in recycling processes and can't be recycled.

All of this contributed to the small design collective Grain's decision to create a simple plastic shower curtain that doesn't offgas toxic chemicals and can be recycled. Their Ty shower curtain is one of my most cherished bathroom items. It moves and breathes like a natural fiber, resists mold and mildew and is made from HDPE, a commonly recycled plastic.


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