Is It Curtains for Your Shower Curtain?
I'm back from the City of Brotherly Love for my sister-in-law's wedding. And in my inbox this morning, I see the Great Plastic Safety Debate raged on in my absence.
The subject this time is shower curtains.
The opening salvo came from the Falls Church-based Center for Health and Environmental Justice, which put out a report saying that that new shower curtain smell is not so good for you. CHEJ hired an independent lab to test several shower curtains purchased at big box stores for various chemicals and heavy metals. The lab found the shower curtains contained phthalates, a chemical compound used to make soft plastic that may cause reproductive problems. The lab also found that the shower curtains released some of their chemical components into the air when exposed to heat and humidity.
But--and it's a pretty big but--the testing did not show that the shower curtains released phthalates.
In the report, the group explains the methodology used wasn't adequate to detect whether phthalates were being released.
When pressed about why the group didn't just wait to release the report until after it did further tests, CHEJ's Mike Schade said it didn't have the funding to do so and felt the chemicals the curtains did release were bad enough. Also, Congress just happened to be holding hearings last week on phthalates.
The report was dismissed by Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese who called its claims "phantasmagorical," thereby making herself a finalist for this year's Best Use of Vocabulary by a Spokesperson Award.
The no-proof-of-phthalate-release problem also became fodder for the American Chemistry Council and the Vinyl Institute (a.k.a. Big Shower Curtain), which see all such reports as part of a plot by enviros to whip us all into a needless paranoid frenzy.
Each group took a different tack.
The ACC sent an e-mail to reporters using the subject line "CORRECTION TO SHOWER CURTAIN SCARE STUDY" -- you know, cause nothing gets a reporter's attention like the C-word.
The e-mail was not a correction request, though. It was more of a screed against coverage of such reports. The group feels that journalists are not doing a good job scrutinizing those reports and spreading the word that the ACC says plastic shower curtains are safe.
Did I mention that the American Chemistry Council says plastic shower curtains are safe?
The group also said in a release that CHEJ was spreading misinformation by implying phthalates had something to do with new shower curtain smell. Phthalates don't even have an odor--a fact, the ACC said, "that any chemist knows."
Take that enviros and Periodic Table-hatas!
The Vinyl Institute dispensed with bashing journalists and anyone who got less than an A in chemistry by choosing instead to spin the report in a positive light. Their release, titled "Shower Curtains Declared Harmless," read as follows:
"Decades of research and use prove that shower curtains made of vinyl are safe, effective and deserve their popularity....Vinyl shower curtains are tough, easy to clean, and can be colored and patterned in endless ways, which have made them popular bathroom accessories for decades."
For some reason, reading that made me miss Phil Hartman.
Where this leaves average consumers, you tell me. The enviros and Big Shower Curtain are fighting for your soul. How are they doing? Do you feel like you are getting the information you need to make an informed choice?
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