Are vinyl shower curtains "harmless" or "potentially toxic"? If it's a slow news day, expect to see coverage of this question in your local newspaper tomorrow, thanks to the release of a report, "Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain's Chemical Smell." The report was released today by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association. So it's no surprise that they're coming out against PVC -- CHEJ has a "poison plastic" Web site, and it's long been pushing for politicians, retailers and consumer product companies to ban or phase out PVC. A news release from CHEJ and CELA claims vinyl shower curtains off-gas toxic chemicals, and it calls on the U.S. and Canada "to take serious action on the use of PVC in consumer products." (The full report is available here.) The Vinyl Institute was prepared for this report today, and sent out a news release of its own. Here are some excerpts:
Decades of research and use prove that shower curtains made of vinyl are safe, effective and deserve their popularity, the Vinyl Institute said this morning. The Institute responded to a report released today that attempts to manipulate retailer and public fears over this simple, popular and trusted household item. The report lists substances in vinyl shower curtains. To a doctor or scientist, the report shows that vinyl shower curtains are not much different from other familiar consumer goods. Even foods can contain some of the chemicals listed in the report. To a consumer or retailer, however, the report is carefully written to provoke anxiety over whether shower curtains are harmful – without citing any evidence of actual harm. Greg Bocchi, president of the Vinyl Institute, said, “Shower curtains are not harmful. This report is simple scare-mongering. It is a blatant attempt by a well-known pressure group to manipulate consumers and retailers into thinking that shower curtains pose a danger, when they don't. It offers no evidence of actual harm.”It will be interesting to see if -- and how -- the media reports this story. The first news Web site that I've seen pick it up today is the New York Daily News, which covered it with the pithy headline "Shower curtains could mean curtains for you, says watchdog group." That story doesn't quote VI or its response, but it does include comments from a Consumer Product Safety Commission spokewoman who says "The claims being made about the dangers of shower curtains are phantasmagorical. It's ridiculous" Plus there's this reaction at the end of the Daily News story:
"If you don't eat the shower curtain, it probably doesn't pose a real risk, but if there's no ventilation you'll be exposed," said Dr. Joel Forman, an associate professor of community and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "If you have one that's more than a month old, the levels are likely quite low," Forman said. "My year-old one, I'm more worried about the mold."Careful what chemicals you use to clean that curtain, Dr. Forman. They could be toxic.