New report shows as many as 100 chemicals released from PVC shower
TORONTO, June 12 /CNW/ - As many as 100 toxic chemicals associated with
adverse health effects are released into the air from polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
shower curtains. These chemicals make up that "new shower curtain smell"
unique to PVC vinyl shower curtains and shower curtain liners, according to
"Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain's Chemical Smell." The new study is
released today by the US-based Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)
and in Canada by Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law
Though ubiquitous in homes around the world, PVC shower curtains contain
many harmful chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs),
phthalates and organotins. Toxic chemical off-gassing from PVC shower curtains
may contribute to respiratory irritation, damage to the central nervous
system, liver and kidney, nausea, headaches and loss of coordination.
"The new shower curtain smell may be toxic to your health," said Michael
Schade, report co-author and CHEJ PVC Campaign Coordinator. "Vinyl shower
curtains are contaminating the air we breathe and we need the Canadian
government to take serious action on the use of PVC in consumer products,"
said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.
"Combined exposure to the multiple chemicals released from vinyl shower
curtains is cause for concern," said Aaron Freeman, Policy Director,
Environmental Defence, "especially for children as they are more sensitive to
The five PVC shower curtains tested in the United State by CHEJ were
purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart. One brand
sold at Bed Bath & Beyond was found in Canadian stores; however, most major
department stores in Canada carry some variety of vinyl shower curtain. Key
- 108 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were released into
the air from a shower curtain over a 28 day period;
- All five curtains tested in phase one contained di(2-ethyl hexyl)
phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). These chemicals and
additional phthalates are banned in children's toys in California,
Washington, and the European Union. Canada has listed only DEHP as a
'toxic' substance, and recommended but not implemented a ban in
- Several chemicals found in the curtains (ethylbenzene, methyl
isobutyl ketone, cyclohexanone, and DINP), are considered a human
health concern under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, but
are not regulated.
"Not only are vinyl products contaminating our indoor air, but they
release toxic dioxins during manufacturing and incineration," said Theresa
McClenaghan, CELA's Executive Director. "The federal government has a window
of opportunity to proactively regulate these chemicals with a major Bill
before Parliament to amend the federal Hazardous Products Act."
The results of the Volatile Vinyl report indicate a clear path for
regulatory reform in Canada. Environmental Defence and CELA recommend that the
federal government take the following steps to protect Canadians' health and
- Ban PVC in shower curtains;
- Require that manufacturers and retailers switch to safer products,
such as cotton shower curtains;
- Expand labeling rules to help consumers make safer choices;
- Declare the chemicals emitted from PVC in consumer products
(including toluene, cyclohexanone, methyl isobutyl ketone, phenol,
ethylbenzene, DEHP, and DINP) as hazardous indoor air pollutants and
regulate their use in consumer products.
The two groups also urge provincial governments across Canada to take
similar steps to protect the health of Canadians.
While waiting for the government to take action, consumers should avoid
purchasing shower curtains, or other everyday products, made with PVC, and
should not buy products that are not labeled for their chemical content.
The full report, Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain's Chemical Smell
is a free download on Environmental Defence's Toxic Nation web site
(www.toxicnation.ca) and the CELA web site (www.cela.ca).
To download broadcast quality b-roll, high resolution photos, and other
resources visit the Center for Health, Environment and Justice web site
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental
Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We
educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air,
clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to
Canada's contribution to climate change.
About CELA: (www.cela.ca) The Canadian Environmental Law Association
works on law and policy issues, in the public interest. We represent
individual citizens and groups in the courts and we advocate for comprehensive
laws to protect and enhance public health and environmental quality across
For further information:
For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232, (647)
280-9521 (cell); Theresa McClenaghan, Canadian Environmental Law Association,
(416) 662-8341 (cell)