5 Places In Your Home Where PVCs Might Be Offgassing Right Now

Organic Hemp Shower Curtain & Drapery
Have you ever bought a new product for your home, opened it up, and was greeted by a strong "new" smell? Chances are, the product contains plastic or vinyl materials, and the smell they release are quite indescribable. It may dissipate over time, but what is that smell? What does it mean for your health and your home?

The truth is, many plastic products contain a compound called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Often labeled simply as "vinyl" on product packaging, PVC has been called "Plastic Poison." [1] The new product smell released from products made with PVC are actually outgassing of over a hundred chemicals into your home and the air you breathe, including formaldehyde and dioxin. These chemicals are called Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. In fact, VOCs have been shown to "damage the liver, central nervous system, respiratory system, reproductive system, and can contribute to developmental damage. Some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. On a day-to-day level, they can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea and loss of coordination." [1]

PVC will continue to off-gas toxic chemicals for weeks, if not months, after opening the package. Sometimes even for the life of the product. And there are several areas around the home where PVC products are likely to be found. Below are 5 places and products in your home that you are most likely to find PVC products.

1. Curtains

This includes both shower curtains and drapes. Shower curtains are typically made from plastic in order to block water, but the plastic component is often made from PVC. And on top of that, heat and humidity may contribute to a more rapid release of VOCs into the air.

What you may not realize is that you don't NEED a plastic shower curtain. There are other less toxic (or better yet, non-toxic) solutions that are equally effective, such as organic fabric shower curtains. Hemp fabric naturally wicks away moisture and is also super absorbent. As long as you let your curtain dry out completely after each use, it acts as a perfect non-toxic (and elegant) solution for your shower.

2. Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is known as a cost-effective and durable alternative to traditional building materials for homes. And yet, studies have shown that the health impacts may not be worth the price tag. After natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Iowa floods of 2008, many victims were placed in temporary trailers constructed from PVC material. Families and individuals experienced headaches, respiratory issues, and nosebleeds. These trailers earned the name "plastic tin cans." [2]

3. Carpet

PVC-backed carpeting is commonly used for the same reason as PVC siding: cost and durability. However, they seem to have an issue with moisture: "PVC backed products will trap the moisture vapor, and force it to condense into damaging liquid water - often leading to serious problems with poor indoor air quality and mold & mildew." [3]

A more sustainable flooring solution would be hardwood flooring, such as bamboo flooring. Switching to hardwood floors will decrease air quality issues from chemical off-gassing, as well as contribute to an allergen-free home. You could even throw down an organic hemp rug to dress it up.


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4. Upholstery

Synthetic materials are used to manufacture upholstery and furniture because of their fire retardancy and durability. But that doesn't change the toxicity component. PVCs contain phthalates (an unstable chemical linked to reproductive problems), which evaporate into the air and cling to dust and particulate matter in the air.

One option to protect yourself from PVC upholstery and furniture is to re-upholster you furniture with organic, chemical-free fabric. There are lots of options out there in organic cotton, linen, and hemp fabrics in beautiful colors and textures. Adding this layer of fabric will freshen up your home in terms of both aesthetics and air quality.


Organic fabric, webbing, drawstring, and fiber

5. Blinds

One final area of your home where PVCs are found are in your blinds. "PVC blinds break down when exposed to heat and sunlight. This slow deterioration of the PVC leads to lead dust forming on the surface of the blinds." [4] What's worse, is that this toxic dust and contaminants cannot be simply washed away. They will continue to impact air quality in your home for the lifetime of the product.

There are alternatives to PVC blinds that you may not have considered. You can buy organic fabric blinds that look elegant, and will not impact your health. Organic linen blinds are naturally UV resistant and the color of the natural linen fiber is beautiful, and suited for any modern home. You could also use organic hemp draperies for a decorative shade.


Organic Hemp Shower Curtain & Drapery

Even though PVC may be the most common form of plastic used today, it's not your only option. Ensuring that these main areas of your home do not contain PVC is the first step to creating a healthy, chemical-free home.


Sources:

1. http://naturallysavvy.com/live/are-vinyl-shower-curtains-toxic

2. https://sidingmagazine.com/siding-information/vinyl-siding-health-concerns/
3. https://blog.millikencarpet.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-pvc-backed-carpet-tiles
4. https://www.hunker.com/12003352/are-pvc-blinds-dangerous

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