Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Showers; Sans Doomsday Devices

Yoga, for me, makes me sweat. A lot. As my only form of real exercise... I should hope so. When an irate doctor asked me what form of exercise I got, and my answer was yoga, her answer was: "no I mean REAL exercise". My answer was: "It is REAL exercise". Dr: "Well, does it even make your heart rate increase?" .... lol "It sure does, I even SWEAT". Sigh, some family doctors are interesting. (pretty purple flowers at our cottage that I like).

In any case, a shower is important, at least the following morning or... eww, if I don't shower prior to morning yoga... (ack!). Taking a nice, cleansing shower after an invigorating practice, with Green Beaver eco-body wash and shampoo, breathing in the wonderful particles of Polyvinyl Chloride...Mmmmm. PVC yummy goodness wafting up into the steam being breathed in from the shower curtain. The majority of people have a shower curtain liner and have spent at least 10 minutes a day breathing in the wonderful chemical treatment of polyvinyl chloride.

Polyvinyl chloride or PVC is the third most common polymer used and according to Wiki, will amass to 40 million tonnes in 7 years... The most common way to make PVC is via suspension polymerization.
Here's a quick run-down for non-chemies like moi:
Ingredients needed: monomer vinylchloride, water, chemical additive soup mix
Supplies: polymerization reactor and polymerization initator or "Doomsday mixing device".
Instructions: mix ingredients into "doomsday devices", continuously mixing with water addition to cool resulting "doomsday" product. Degass (inappropriate giggle), pass through centrifuge to remove access water and blow dry with giant hair dryer. Tah Dah! PVC created by a hugely energy intensive process. (wiki)

PVC requires plasticizers, phthalates to keep the the plastic soft and flexible. Able to move and fold like a shower curtain. These phthalates have been found to mimic human hormones and react with fish and amphibian biochemistry. Depending on the type of phthalate, risks range from cancer, birth defects to hormone disruption. Also, other nasty chemicals like fungicide are often added to shower curtains to help prevent mildew growth (as if that would ever work anyway). That new shower curtain smell (similar to new car, new rug or new couch smell) is the doomsday chemicals evaporating and "off gassing" into the air and being inhaled into your lungs and bloodstream. (hemp field in Manitoba)

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, as many as 100 harmful chemicals are released into the air from a PVC shower curtain and vinyl plastic waste accounts for 1.23 million tonnes in the U.S. alone (and remember, plastic lives forever!)

Okidoki, after detoxifying and cleansing my body with yoga, filling my lungs with hormone disrupting doomsday chemicals is not really the way I want to complete my experience. So what are the alternatives out there and do they really work?

1. Hemp Shower Curtains:
These are ALL the rage and you'll see them touted as THE most eco-friendly option. All industrial hemp grown in Canada is GMO-free. Hemp has also been found to be resistent to mildew and is a strong, sturdy fiber (Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance). It is also pest resistent and requires little to no pesticides to grow and has been found to reduce 
pests in other crops when grown in rotation. Check out the Ontario Hemp Alliance for more information on the eco-benefits of hemp.

These shower curtains are beautiful, but pricey and cost on average 80-100$ per curtain... Currently in Halifax P'lovers carries hemp shower curtains and they are around 95$. I definitely cannot afford one of those. Also, I have read that despite claims, they will grow mold and require frequent cleaning. Since we use coin laundry, filling an industrial washing machine and paying another 1.50$ to wash my shower curtain just isn't practical. If you do have the money- please make sure to check where the hemp was grown (Dream Designs shown here is made in Canada and is 89$ on the site).

2. Bamboo Shower Curtains:
Now these are paraded as similar in values as hemp; supposedly "sustainably" grown (but we know that a TON of chemicals goes into changing bamboo into a cloth fiber) and mildew resistent. Same issues apply here; the high cost and need for frequent machine washes with the added greenwashing "sustainable" aspect.

3. EVA plastic shower curtains:
Ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA, is a form of plastic that has little to no odor which is the result of less off-gassing of harmful chemicals such as phthalates. Although still a plastic, this shower curtain is easy to clean with a quick scrub, won't release the above mentioned chemicals and is CHEAP (think 2-7$). This was my stop-gap until I can figure out how to justify saving 100$ for a shower curtain. However, these "eco" options are still plastic, will still last forever and have a long scary, sludge spewing life before they grace my zen bathroom space. (our EVA shower curtain, had to sit waaay back on the counter to get far enough away to take the picture. Our bathroom is TINY).

4. No shower curtain liner...
Ok- I need a liner. I am sure, however there are others that are less type A than myself and will be fine (as they should) without one. I admire your strength.

So next steps for eco-fying my shower include: taking shorter showers, placing a little bucket to keep me company and save some plant-water and find the perfect "eco" shampoo. I am on a mission.



  1. We have a glass screen at the moment. It's a pain in the ass to keep clean but at least there is no PVC!

  2. Was just reading your post when I saw I had a comment from you (small world). I love, LOVE, going to Kerry's classes, especially the ones at the barn. I'm heading that way again this Saturday for a half day workshop and again in June for a two hour Friday night flow class.

  3. Slightly off topic, but do you use a filter for your shower? I've been using a filter for about a year now & the difference in my skin and hair is phenomenal. My hairstylist is even telling all her clients to buy one because my hair is so silky. I'd be interested to hear your review on the pros/cons of filters in the shower.

  4. Hi Rachel: yay glass screen! I've also experienced those, although great for no PVC, I totally agree, a complete pain to clean!

    Vickie: I think I may have seen you at one of her classes at the ballet school in December... her sub Sheri was there and she passed around a paper to sign.. :) Some day I'll make it to 'the barn' :)

    Julie: Ouuu! That is an interesting idea (especially since my hair hates Halifax water). I will look into that and see, I wonder how feasible, price and recyclable they are... :) Thanks!

  5. Well, well, we were probably at the ballet school at the same time and at that time we did'nt know each other existed (via the blogging world).

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I recently tweeted and stumbled upon your post. Really your post is very informative and I enjoyed your opinions. Do you use twitter or stumbleupon? So I can follow you there. I am hoping you post again soon.

  8. I visit your site and know about your about showers,sans doomsday Devices.Please keep sharing more and more information...


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