Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Green Living in the Shower

Does your green living regime include your shower curtain? If so, it may be toxic to your health.

Does your green living regime include your shower curtain? There have been many debates, and in some countries even regulation, regarding plastic shower curtains. The main concern of the EPA and CHEJ has been PVC that research found to emit hazardous chemicals while users were taking hot showers. Now IKEA and other major retailers phased out PVC-based shower curtains as recent as 3 years ago. IKEA was the leader, phasing it out over a decade ago, while other American-based big box stores have been slow to remove the toxins. They publicly announced they would reduce the amount of PVC-based shower curtains available, but failed to provide a timeline or details.

So what are they replacing it with? More plastic. Your internal green living guide may tell you that this doesn’t seem like the best solution. And you are most likely correct. There is significant disagreement over the long-term health impacts of exposure to plastic. It depends on the type of plastic, the type of exposure, the weather, the age of the plastic and so on and so forth. Your best bet? Take a preventative approach and reduce the amount of plastic in your home, starting with items that may be exposed to heat like shower curtains, water bottles, and Tupperware for hot foods.

As for your green living bathing regime, there are three solutions. The first is to eliminate the curtain all together. It is negotiable whether a glass door entry has a lesser impact than the other cloth options, but over the long term it just may. If you are designing your house from scratch, you may consider this option. Some showers don’t even have doors anymore, everything is angled. It will just require some cleaning and upkeep. The more common solutions are organic cotton and hemp curtains.

These two options may have a higher initial investment, but if you take good care of them, you shouldn’t need to replace them for quite some time. So their long-term payback time is good as well as the potential health risks plastic curtains pose. Each curtain is different, but most curtains should be washed regularly. After your shower, just squeeze out the corners holding the water and let the curtain dry. Make sure that your bathroom is well-ventilated to allow the curtain to fully dry. Also, be aware that some cloth shower curtains may shrink considerably, so check with the manufacturer when deciding what size you may need.

Recycled polyester plastic shower curtains and other ‘eco-options’ have also sprouted up in the green living market over the years. Personally, I am working on living a plastic-free lifestyle. So although I am happy to see plastic being recycled into new goods, I would like to keep them off my body and out of any heat-prone areas of my home.

Best of luck finding the eco-option that best suits your lifestyle.

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