Are Yoga Mats ACTUALLY Toxic? (2022)
Are Yoga Mats ACTUALLY Toxic? (2022)
By the Pureful Yoga Team 🍃
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Update (Oct. 5, 2022):
Springer just published a new study on the connection between infertility and toxins (like phthalates and heavy metals). They conclude an increase in exposure to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals is “likely” one of the factors causing the recent (and alarming) increase in infertility.
Are you planning to start your own yoga journey? Every yogi needs a yoga mat to comfortably and safely practice their poses and sequences.
Maybe you aren’t doing yoga, maybe you’re doing pilates instead. Whatever the case may be, the point is, you need a safe spot to exercise – and that is where your mat comes in!
But safety does not only pertain to the amount of cushioning the yoga mat provides. The yoga mat itself should be made from safe materials.
Are yoga mats toxic?
Sadly, yes – many yoga mats are toxic (if repeatedly used long-term). These are yoga mats made with chemicals shown in studies to disrupt hormonal balance and cause health issues down the road. Let’s discuss what makes these yoga mats toxic and how we can avoid synthetic chemicals.
Which yoga mats are toxic?
Yoga mats made from PVC, Chlorine, NBR, phthalates, heavy metals and plasticizers are known to be toxic. Over time, as your hands and feet stay in contact with the mat, the chemicals can slowly seep into your skin and cause long-term health issues.
There’s an alarming number of toxic yoga mats being sold online.
These are known to contain a plethora of chemicals and carcinogens (like Phthalates in PVC) that increase the likelihood of getting cancer – as they slowly seep into your skin from repeated contact, over and over again. A few things to note:
- Not only can they be absorbed through your skin – but in some cases, they can also be inhaled. Does your PVC yoga mat smell?
- According to Grand View Research, roughly 40% of the yoga mats owned and used in 2018 were made from PVC. Yikes.
- It gets worse – these toxic yoga mats aren’t just making negative impacts on our health. They’re harming the environment, too.
Almost all of the harmful mats (listed below) are either made from plastic or synthetic rubber. And we all know how much damage these materials can do to our environment.
They get dumped in landfills and take forever to degrade. This is why we should avoid purchasing these yoga mats as much as possible.
Here are the toxic yoga mats you should try to avoid:
PVC Yoga Mat
You know that “new yoga mat smell” everyone talks about? It sounds pleasant, right?
Some people actually love it. But little do they know that that smell is actually the smell of chemicals and it usually comes from PVC mats.
- PVC yoga mats are made from polyvinyl chloride or vinyl for short.
- They contain a bunch of toxic chemicals that are responsible for making PVC mats sticky, durable, and easy to clean.
- And although PVC mats do provide a decent quality for their price, this is probably the worst yoga mat you could buy.
Why? Despite being the most commonly used plastic on the planet, it’s also known as “the poison plastic” because it’s the most damaging plastic there is. You can’t even recycle it!
Everything about PVC – from the moment it’s produced, used, and eventually, thrown away – is toxic.
These mats release a bunch of chlorine-based chemicals. These chemicals end up spreading in the atmosphere which then ends up in our water supply and food chain.
This can be lethal since chlorine is a human carcinogen 1. The worst part is our bodies have already absorbed measurable amounts of this carcinogen just by living on this earth.
Aside from being packed with toxic chemicals, PVC yoga mats are also full of heavy metals.
Lead and cadmium are the two main heavy metals found in PVC mats. And they both have their own negative impacts to our health.
- Lead isn’t officially defined as a human carcinogen – but the International Agency for Research on Cancer did classify them as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”1
- And to us, that is just as bad. Lead can cause various renal, hematological, neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and reproductive effects on our bodies – negative effects.
- Cadmium, on the other hand, has been linked to kidney disease and damage, mineral density in bones, and preterm labor 2.
- Unlike, lead, this was classified as carcinogenic to humans.
These chemicals and heavy metals can enter our bodies in two ways. We either ingest them or inhale them. Breathing is a major part of the yoga practice. We take very deep inhales and exhales. So if you’re using a PVC yoga mat, you should be concerned – and consider replacing it ASAP.
NBR Yoga Mat
NBR yoga mats are a form of synthetic rubber.
They are said to be more eco-friendly than PVC because they’re made without phthalates (a group of chemicals found in PVC that help make it more durable). But that alone isn’t enough to call them eco-friendly.
They still use chemicals such as Butadiene 3 to make NBR—it’s literally what NBR stands for: Nitrile Butadiene Rubber.
This chemical is also found in PVC but it’s mainly used for creating synthetic rubber. It’s also not recyclable or biodegradable like natural rubber. You’ll find that these mats have that same unsettling chemical odor as PVC.
What are some non-toxic yoga mats worth buying?
With the issue of climate change and global warming, a lot more people are becoming aware of the harmful impacts certain products have on the environment.
- Companies are becoming more creative and are trying to find more natural and non-toxic alternatives to yoga mats.
- A lot of modern yoga brands are coming out with legitimate eco-friendly and non-toxic yoga mats.
- We understand that some of you prefer to find the cheapest option.
- But if you look at how much damage these cheap (but toxic) products cause, you’ll soon realize that the price just isn’t worth it.
A lot of the nontoxic mats are more expensive than cheap, synthetic options. But for the quality that you’re getting, we believe them to be well worth every penny.
And, you’ll be protecting yourself and the climate from exposure to toxic chemicals. Here are the nontoxic mats you should opt for:
TPE Yoga Mat
TPE (or Thermal Plastic Elastomer) isn’t the best option… but it’s an upgrade from PVC and NBR mats.
- TPE yoga mats are made from a mixture of plastic and rubber – but they aren’t actually toxic.
- They have similar characteristics to PVC yoga mats in the way they look, but they don’t use chemicals such as dioxin and phthalates in the materials.
- This material can even be recycled. TPE is also quite impressive when it comes to durability, stickiness, and ease of cleaning.
The TPE yoga mat doesn’t share the same chemical odor as PVC and NVR mats. It still uses some percent of plastic but at least it can be recycled.
It’s definitely not the best non-toxic option, but it’s a decent improvement compared to PVC and NBR yoga mats.
Natural Rubber Yoga Mat
If there are synthetic rubber yoga mats, there are natural rubber mats too.
We are happy to say that, unlike synthetic rubber, a natural rubber mat is actually a non-toxic yoga mat and is certainly eco-friendly.
Natural rubber is sourced from the sap of rubber trees. These are completely renewable resources. The natural rubber makes this kind of yoga mat a lot heavier than most yoga mats.
Cork, which is also a type of natural yoga mat, only weighs around 1.8 pounds. A natural rubber yoga mat can weigh around 3 pounds.
Do note that although this is a non-toxic yoga mat it’s not advised for those with latex allergies to use this kind of yoga mat.
Cotton & Hemp Yoga Mat
Although cotton and hemp make great natural materials for yoga mats, they don’t provide the best grip and tend to slip around on smooth surfaces.
- The stickiness of a yoga mat is a big deal for a lot of people, so if you’re a beginner you might not like this kind of mat.
- They are, however, very durable and are biodegradable.
- But there is one more thing you should keep in mind, and that’s not all cotton and hemp yoga mats are created equally.
Some are organic and some use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to grow cotton or hemp.
Non-organic practices still harm the environment. So if you’re interested in getting a yoga mat made from cotton or hemp, make sure to check that the brand is 100% organic and non-GMO.
Jute Yoga Mat
Jute yoga mats are a little more eco-friendly than cotton and hemp yoga mats.
- It’s made from all organic plant fibers that don’t require the use of pesticides.
- It’s a sustainable source and a naturally antimicrobial material too—this means it can kill germs and bacteria.
- The only downside with jute yoga mats is the texture.
Some say that it can be a little scratchy – since it;s made from plant fibers. If you aren’t that bothered by that kind of thing, we highly recommend the jute yoga mat as a nontoxic and natural choice.
Cork Yoga Mats
Cork yoga mats might be the only type of yoga mats that check all the boxes when it comes to sustainability, durability, cleanliness, and stickiness.
It’s everything you want and more from a natural yoga mat.
- The cork used to make cork yoga mats is sourced from the bark of a cork tree.
- Since it’s only taken from the bark it isn’t necessary to cut down the tree.
- Plus, the bark regenerates easily. So it’s a completely sustainable and renewable source of material – and it’s recyclable, too!
Not to mention the process of taking off the bark from the cork tree actually helps lessen the amount of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere. How cool is that?
Which non-toxic yoga mat is the best?
It’s quite obvious that one non-toxic yoga mat, in particular, stood out more than the others. Natural rubber, cotton, hemp, and jute are some great non-toxic options – but cork is definitely the best of the five.
The Best Non-Toxic Cork Yoga Mat
Want to make the shift to non-toxic and environmentally friendly yoga mats? Take a look at our reviews of cork yoga mats here – so you can quickly compare and decide for yourself.
Sustainable & Eco-Friendly
Each one is 100% organic and eco-friendly:
- The cork is sourced from the bark of a cork oak tree.
- But don’t worry because the cork trees are completely unharmed in the process and the bark of the tree regenerates over time.
- It’s a completely sustainable and renewable source of material.
Antimicrobial & Self Cleaning
Aside from being sustainable and eco-friendly, these cork yoga mats are self-cleaning. Thanks to the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties naturally found in cork you don’t actually have to clean your mats.
So no matter how many times you use the yoga mat… it won’t develop mold or mildew and definitely won’t smell. But if you’re the type who likes to be extra clean, you can still give your cork mat a wash, it won’t damage the mat.
Cork is a very durable and resilient material so you can trust that the cork mat will be just as durable. While most yoga mats only last around 8 months long, cork yoga mats will typically last you one to two years.
Of course, we can’t forget about the non-slip qualities of cork. It’s practically the best part of using cork for a yoga mat.
- The traction that cork gives makes it one of the best materials for a yoga mat.
- Even if your body gets super drenched from sweat, you don’t have to worry about slipping because cork is water-resistant!
- Although it’s pretty expensive compared to the rest of the mats mentioned in this article, we believe that it’s worth every penny.
- There are just no downsides when it comes to cork mats – just make sure to buy from a reputable brand with a trustworthy history.
And if you’re interested in more cork-based yoga accessories, check out these cork yoga blocks and a cork yoga mat bags to go together with your mat.