It's been a hot, moist summer here in NYC, and I ended up recycling my PEVA shower curtain and replacing it with a polyester one a few weeks ago because I couldnt wash the mold out of the bottom of it. A soon-to-be-pregnant reader on the hunt for a safer shower curtain wrote to us wondering about a new shower curtain material she keeps seeing, PEVA:
In our quest to get pregnant this summer, my husband and I (ok, mostly me) have become more and more conscientious about the toxins, etc. around us - thanks largely to your book and blogs! While on the lookout for vinyl, Ive recently noticed some products (shower curtains, lined baby bibs) labeled 100% PEVA. What is PEVA, and is it a safe alternative to PVC? Im sure organic cotton is the best choice for many of these types of products, but when my options are vinyl, PEVA, or polyester, whats a girl to do?
Definitely skip the poly vinyl chloride (PVC) shower curtain. The plastic is softened with hormone-disrupting phthalates, and also includes chlorine which creates dioxin, a carcinogenic chemical formed during its creation and destruction. Dioxin is also bad news because it penetrates a lot of the food chain because of how far and sturdily it can travel without breaking down.
If youd like more proof, check out a recent article on Healthy Building.net about a new study thats found that six hours after opening a vinyl shower curtain your bathroom would be swimming volatile organic compounds over 16 times the guidelines for indoor air quality established by the US Green Building Council and the Washington State Indoor Air Quality Program.
Enter PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate). This is a chlorine-free vinyl thats starting to be used in lots of products like toys and baby bibs as a replacement for PVC, along with EVA, PVA and PVB. Its lack of chlorine doesnt make it (or the others) perfect -- they are still petrochemical products full of untested chemicals -- but its a step in the right direction in the attempt to find green polymers and PVC alternatives.
Polyester and cotton are good solutions, but neither is a guilt-free fabric either cotton uses tons of pesticides and polyester is PET plastic -- tons of nasty chemicals are used to process it. Organic cotton is a good choice, but it might not wick water away as well as youd like it to. Hemp is good, but often pricey. Same for linen this one at Gaiam will run you $59 bucks. Heres a recycled polyester curtain from Health Goods, at a pretty unreasonable $69.95. You might find that the problem with the cheap nylon curtain is that it can fly around a bit, but most come with magnets sewn into the bottom. You can throw it in the washing machine when it gets moldy, and if it sticks to your leg every once in a while at least youll know it wasnt crawling with mold.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.