I’ve decided it’s time for a new shower curtain, and I definitely want a nontoxic one. I don’t even know what my old one is made out of because it was in my apartment when I moved in, but my new one will definitely not be made out of PVC.
PVC, often called “vinyl” in shower curtains, is bad for both you and the environment in so many ways:
- PVC is made from the highly toxic vinyl chloride monomer. To learn more about the shocking history of vinyl chloride, check out the film “Trade Secrets.”
- It is softened with the use of phthalates, known endocrine disruptors, which are not chemically bonded to the polymer and can leech out.
- Burning PVC generates dioxins, a carcinogen and one of the most toxic synthetic chemicals out there.
- “New shower curtain smell” is actually a mixture of VOCs, organotins, and phthalates, all of which are toxic and will make you sick.
The good news is that there are many alternatives to PVC shower curtains.
Cloth shower curtains such as [organic] linen, cotton, and hemp are nice, but most of them need plastic liners anyways. They are also expensive. Hemp is one option that does not need a liner if you have a fairly well ventilated bathroom (I don’t) because it will degrade in a humid environment, but a hemp curtains run at least $50.
After doing a little more shower curtain research, I settled on PEVA as my substitute for PVC. PEVA, or polyethylene vinyl acetate, is a chlorine free and biodegradable plastic. Although PVC is commonly referred to as “vinyl,” vinyl actually refers to the carbon and hydrogen monomer backbone, so it is not something to worry about within the name of a plastic. PEVA, composed of only hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, is made out of petrochemicals, which is not exactly sustainable, but it does not contain phthalates, will not off-gas, and is available at Ikea for under $10. Although not the greenest option, it is certainly better than PVC, and will serve me well until I can afford organic hemp.
In a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond to exchange my SodaStream’s CO2 cartridge, I bought a new shower curtain! It is 100% PEVA, cost only $15 with a coupon, and has the periodic table on it, which the chemistry nerd in me couldn’t resist.