How Do Vinyl Shower Curtains Affect Your Health?

What to know about hazardous shower curtains, and ways to make your bathroom healthier

There is a reason why that new vinyl shower curtain you just bought home may have a funky smell when you open up the package. That’s because if that vinyl curtain is made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), it could be releasing chemical fumes that have been stored up in the package. These gases can linger around the house for up to four months, which means PVC-type vinyl shower curtains can have a definite impact on your health.

Tests of shower curtains reveal toxins

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) is a nonprofit group dedicated to educating the public about preventing the use of chemical threats in our daily environment. They recently conducted a study of vinyl shower curtains made with PVC and found some alarming facts.

The shower curtains made with PVC compounds that were commonly sold at stores such as Target; Sears; Walmart; Kmart; and Bed, Bath & Beyond contained up to 108 volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Some of these compounds have been proved to cause damage to the lungs, liver and the nervous systems. Studies of the effects of VOCs on animals have shown VOCs to be carcinogenic, and VOCs are also suspected to cause cancer in humans.

Vinyl shower curtains also contain phthalates

The CHEJ study went on to discover that these same types of vinyl curtains also contained chemicals known as phthalates. Phthalates have been tied to reproductive complications such as shortened pregnancy terms, abnormal growth of breasts for girls and compromised sperm production in men. You should additionally note that the researchers merely tested the chemicals that make up these shower curtains. However, the conditions under which these shower curtains are commonly used result in an increased humidity that might actually accelerate the release of these harmful chemicals.


The website Natural Savvy is devoted to providing information about leading a healthy and naturally organic lifestyle. They recommend using vinyl shower curtains that are manufactured with polyethylene vinyl acetate, or PEVA. This is a stable form of vinyl that hasn’t been linked to any harmful health effects. Because of the concerns with PVC, many manufacturers are now turning toward PEVA for their shower curtains.

Natural Savvy suggests that a healthy alternative to vinyl curtains is to consider replacing your standard bathroom showerhead with a rain showerhead combined with a cotton shower curtain made from organic materials that doesn’t have any type of plastic liner. The rain showerhead cuts back on the splash, making a cloth shower curtain sufficient. You could also consider installing glass shower doors.

Bottom line: There are healthy alternative to PVC-laden vinyl shower curtains.

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