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Danger in the Bathroom: Study Finds Toxic Shower Curtains

June 13, 2008

Boston, MA - Don't let the fresh smell of a new shower curtain fool you. A new study shows that distinctive, plastic odor could actually be very dangerous. The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow tested curtains manufactured with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that were purchased in popular stores. Tests found the scent contains more than a hundred chemicals suspected of causing breathing irritation, nausea, asthma and even cancer. Some of the chemicals stayed in the air for 28 days. Seven of the chemicals are classified as hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Massachusetts' State Representative Jay Kaufman says the test highlights the need to pass the "Safer Alternatives Bill," which would phase out harmful chemicals in products made in Massachusetts and substitute reasonable alternatives.

"The goal is to try to take some of the most toxic chemicals out of the environment because of the impact they're having on our individual health, public health and the environment itself."

Kaufman says, while Massachusetts is at the forefront of this movement in this country, the European Union already has similar laws in place, and it's time for the U.S. to catch up.

"We would be setting the pace for this country. One of the arguments I make for this bill is that we may as well get ahead of the curve, because problems from the chemicals are going to catch us if we don't."

Retailers Ikea and Marks and Spencer sell shower curtains without PVC; others have plans to phase it out. Rep. Kaufman is urging a vote in the House by the end of the session, July 31. The bill passed the Senate in January after it was revised to ease concerns of businesses, offering them more assistance in making the switch.

The report may be found online at www.healthytomorrow.org.

Kevin Clay/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MA