For those of us who practice yoga, our mats are a source of solace and comfort.
A mat can be almost sacred—a refuge. But, is your mat safe?
Many yoga mats are made out of a variety of materials, including rubber, plastic, jute, and a combination of other products. One chemical that has gotten quite a bit of press lately is Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. This chemical is used is hard plastics and to coat the inside of canned foods and is becoming widely known as something to avoid. Why is BPA have such a bad reputation? Because it disrupts endocrine function which can lead to hazardous effects like heart disease, reproductive disorders, male impotence, and many other issues that most of us do not want.
However, another chemical that isn’t getting as much attention is phthalate. This substance is added to plastic to make it more pliable and soft. This means it is usually used to make a host of products such as baby toys, children’s toys,office products and school supplies such as binders and printer inks, modeling clay, electronics and yoga mats.
Phthalates are known as “endocrine disruptors” because they mimic the body’s hormones and have, in laboratory animal tests, been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage. They are easily released into the environment because there is no covalent bond between the phthalates and plastics in which they are mixed. As plastics age and break down, the release of phthalates accelerates. This makes exposure to these chemicals very common.
So what type of diseases/maladies are associated with these chemicals?
- Breast cancer
- interruption of male reproductive development in infants
- undescended testicles
- liver damage
- Type II diabetes (insulin resistance)
- low birth weight
- possible link to ADHD in children
- cardiovascular disease
While these chemicals are also invading our food supply and are found in higher concentrations in meats and fatty foods such as milk and butter, they can also be absorbed through the skin. As of February 2009, it has been made a law that children’s toys and baby products that are placed in the mouth, can no longer be manufactured with phthalates, but they are still used in many other toys, household products and food.
For instance, several squeeze toys, including a rubber ducky purchased at Fred Meyer and a Target- brand penguin, tested at more than 30% phthalate content. Also a Target-brand “Baby I’mYours” doll contained more than 30% total phthalates.
If you are trying your best to avoid products and food with these chemicals, look for phthalate-free labels. Also here are a few resources that may be helpful:
Until stricter laws are made and enforced, search out products that are non-toxic and chemical-free, and buy organic if possible. Cook more at home with fresh foods and focus less on consumer-driven purchases and participate instead in family activities such as biking, visiting parks, and touring museums.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get involved. Write your congressman, join a group, and make some noise. The more we know about these chemicals, the better chance we have to make changes.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise