What's the big deal about my PVC yoga mat?

Trying to get fitter, live cleaner and generally feel healthier? Ironically most yoga mats are made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC; arguably the most toxic plastic in existence today. What makes it so bad is its toxic and highly harmful ingredients which casually waft into the environment as well as our bodies during manufacture, use and disposal.

PVC’s main ingredients is chlorine which, when produced, releases harmful dioxins into the environment. Dioxins are known human carcinogens, linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive, developmental and immune problems. In addition, PVC requires nasty additives, including heavy metals such as lead and phthalates.

You may have heard about phthalates or seen the word on labels. Phthalates (pronounced ‘tha-lates’) are a group of chemicals added to plastics to increase their pliability, transparency and durability. They are what make your yoga mat soft, flexible and grippy. That new car smell? Phthalates. New shower curtain smell? Phthalates. Phthalates are known as ‘endocrine disruptors’ because they mimic the body’s hormones and are linked to liver and testicular cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects and learning disabilities. Phthalates are easily released into the environment because there are no covalent bonds between phthalates and the plastics in which they are mixed. We are exposed to pthalates when we get upclose and personal with our mats, breathing them in as they off-gas and by simple skin contact.

There is no safe way to destroy or even recycle yoga mats that contain PVC. When incinerated, PVC produces hydrogen chloride gas, that is extremely toxic to marine life, animals and of course humans. They are not biodegradable and when placed in landfills (many of whch are unlined) they leach chemicals into soil and then eventually into ground and surface water.

Where to from here? Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom! The good news is; alternatives exisit for almost all uses of PVC. As consumers recognise the risks associated with PVC and increasingly opt for alternatives, we can start to replace and eventually phase out this poison plastic. By choosing PVC-free, it is possible to protect our health as well as the health of future generations and their planet. 

Shop consciously friends. Choose PVC alternatives.


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