The toxic truth about PVC yoga mats

The toxic truth about PVC yoga mats

In yoga, the mat is everything. This essential item is a need whether you are a novice or an experienced yogi, a student at a yoga studio, or a home practitioner. Thus, having your own mat has practically a requirement for maintaining proper cleanliness and safety during your workout.


You will quickly become perplexed when you start your search for a yoga mat online because there are so many different kinds available. It's simple to become disheartened in your quest due to the variety of materials, thicknesses, colors, and textures. In fact, you may feel as though you will never find the right one for you! 


So, be sure to spend a good amount of time researching because going for the cheapest yoga mat has a lot of disadvantages. Not only health-related but also environmental.


In this article, we will educate you on just how toxic a PVC yoga mat can be! We will go through some questions that are of interest to yogis across the world and answer them for you! And if you still want to know more at the end of this blog post, you can always visit our website and educate yourself.

What is PVC?

First, let's explain what it is, why it is so cheap, and what it is made from.


PVC, a form of synthetic plastic, frequently goes unnoticed since it typically assumes the appearance of vinyl. One of the earliest polymers to be found was polyvinyl chloride. And it is one of the most hazardous plastics on the market, according to the acclaimed book ‘Healthy Child Healthy World’, yet it is still widely used. This material is present in practically everything, from flooring and building supplies to kids' toys and most packaging.


In addition, PVC is the world's third-most-manufactured synthetic plastic polymer and is produced in around 40 million tons annually. There are two primary varieties of this material – flexible and rigid. In its rigid form, it is employed in pipe construction and in profile applications, such as doors and windows. It is also used to create plastic bottles, non-food containers, food-covering sheets, and cards (such as bank or membership cards). Phthalates are the most widely used type of plasticizer that can be used to make something softer and more flexible. 


Additionally, it is employed in this form for various applications where the rubber is not appropriate. This includes flooring, signage, phonograph records, inflatables, plumbing, electrical wire insulation, imitation leather, and many others.

Why are PVC yoga mats cheaper?

For a very long time, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) yoga mats were the most often used since they were and still are the least expensive. Nowadays, a growing number of people (yogis in particular) are searching for environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives. That implies that these types of mats will unavoidably fall from grace.


Plastic is a PVC. By adding plasticizers – the most popular of which are phthalates; it can be made softer and more flexible (as yoga mats are). Plus, this is the most hazardous plastic and, is sometimes referred to as vinyl. Throughout every phase of its life cycle, plastic is regarded as poisonous, and it is harmful during production, toxic for final consumers, and hazardous for disposal.


We are exposed to this material often as consumers through skin contact and breathing. This substance is not biodegradable or environmentally friendly, and it cannot be recycled either. If you purchase one of these mats, ensure it has an OekoTex safety certificate. Although these products are regarded as safe, PVC is not biodegradable. It can only be destroyed by burning it, which creates extremely dangerous and persistent dioxins that eventually find their way into our systems through the soil, fish, animals, water, and air.

Why people continue to use PVC material mats?

Yoga schools frequently choose PVC yoga mats since they are typically long-lasting. They are quite simple to clean; you can just throw them in the washing machine and don't always need to use specialized detergents. They are also the cheapest yoga mats available.


These mats are thought to have high anti-slip qualities, though obviously, this varies on the model. You must adapt to PVC, and they develop a thin, slippery coating or layer during manufacture. Although it could be annoying during the first practice, eventually, the mat will develop its ideal anti-slip qualities.


There are also other natural ways to hasten the process, such as spreading it out and liberally sprinkling salt. After a few or several hours, wash the salt off the surface with a damp cloth or sponge. When removing the salt, a little friction is necessary.


PVC material mats work well for fitness, pilates, and other gym activities. Since they don't absorb moisture and might become quite slippery, they are not advised for rigorous yoga practice.


Another factor contributing to this material's popularity is its versatility. Customers can choose from a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and thicknesses thanks to molding. Producers can experiment with its stickiness and sponginess by blending it with different substances.


Since PVC yoga mats are constructed of plastic, they are durable and offer greater performance and alignment to practitioners when changing and holding positions, thanks to their smooth texture and good grip.


These mats are fantastic for their longevity and cost, but if you care about the environment and your health, think about buying one of the more environmentally friendly ones on the market.

Health effects

The primary component of PVC, vinyl chloride, is a human carcinogen, according to the European Chemicals Agency. As a result, the first case of liver cancer brought on by vinyl chloride was reported in 1974. Since then, further studies have shown that it can cause cancer in other organs at lower doses. We do not have any scientific proof that regular yoga practice on a polyvinyl chloride mat can cause cancer.


The production of harmful dioxins as a consequence of the manufacturing and disposal processes is another issue with this material. Due to the significant cancer risks, the EWG rates this product 10 out of 10 (with one being the least toxic).


PVC cannot degrade naturally; thus, burning it is the only way to get rid of it. Dioxins are created when chlorine burns and are eventually found in soil, fish, animals, water, the air, and people. They are bioaccumulative and persistent (they take a long time to degrade in the environment) (they build up in our bodies). Also, they may consequently interact with hormones, harm the immune system, and result in issues with reproduction and development.


Dioxins are therefore regarded as very harmful persistent organic pollutants by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants stresses the significance of restricting the processes that create this substance.


Just by smelling your yoga mat, you can tell a lot about it. You don't want to be exposed to the scent of chemicals that you receive when you acquire a new car.


Additionally, unlike the scent you get from your PVC yoga mat, all-natural rubber versions do have a smell when you use them for the first time, but they are not harmful, and the fragrance will fade over time.


Your mat's aroma may have an impact on your practice, so make sure it doesn't release any hazardous chemicals or offensive odors. 

Environmental effects

Greenpeace claims that polyvinyl chloride is the single most environmentally harmful of all plastics and that it presents major risks to both human health and the environment at every stage of its lifespan. 


Chlorine and dioxin are the words that best explain why this material is so dangerous. According to Greenpeace, "PVC manufacture accounts for roughly 40% of all chlorine used in the United States and is the greatest and fastest expanding chlorine consumption." Chlorine is the fundamental component of our most well-known hazardous issues, including Agent Orange, PCBs, DDT pesticides, CFCs that devastated the ozone layer, and the dioxin poisoning at Love Canal and Times Beach.


Regardless of the exposure level, the production of it also produces hazardous chemicals in addition to the use of chlorine. Dioxins are "a category of chemically related chemicals that are persistent environmental pollutants (POPs)," according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


These substances are made of chlorine. PVC contributes more than any other industrial product to the country's annual dioxin load, according to the WHO. It is one of the most hazardous substances ever produced. As a result of a chemical reaction involving chlorine, carbon, and ethylene, the production of this substance is not environmentally friendly. Plasticizers combine during production, providing even another layer of dangerous chemicals. In addition, according to Greenpeace, the majority of PVC manufacturing facilities are situated in communities with a high BIPOC population in Texas and Louisiana, causing air and water pollution.


The proliferation of polyvinyl chloride chemicals has a disproportionately negative impact on adjacent BIPOC populations, agriculture, and fishing grounds. Upon exposure, the dioxins generated by PVC build up in the fat of exposed animals. Due to the disruption of the animal's hormones, birth abnormalities, infertility, and developmental issues can occur in the young.


PVC has a lot of natural alternatives that you can choose from instead of this dangerous substance. Natural rubber and latex were utilized long before this substance was invented and continue to function as strong substitutes for it today, and you should pick one of those instead. Polyvinyl chloride is not recognized as environmentally friendly because it is created through a chemical process involving chlorine, carbon, and ethylene. In addition, it releases other dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere and has a negative impact on the ecosystem. Phthalates, which are plasticizers, are added in order to change the substance into one that may be utilized for textiles or packaging, adding still another layer of dangerous chemicals.

Better options

All things considered, it is obviously already a matter of preference. Most yogis who are committed to including all facets of yoga in their physical practice would advise you to choose the most environmentally friendly option.

If you want a yoga mat that will last for many generations, is simple to clean, and is not too heavy to carry to the yoga studio, cotton is an excellent choice. Although they might get slick on smooth surfaces, you can increase traction by using a rubber pad. Another choice is rubber, which is recyclable and sticky but might cause allergies in people who are sensitive to latex.

There are cork yoga mats available. Being heavier than other options available, it can be difficult to carry when you wish to take your yoga practice outside. However, it is eco-friendly and antibacterial.

To sum up

In conclusion, polyvinyl chloride is used to make the majority of cheap yoga mats. Both during manufacturing and exposure, this material is hazardous. It's unknown if using your mat might actually make you ill. However, there is sufficient data to worry about elevated risks. PVC exposure occurs in three ways for consumers: inhalation, cutaneous absorption, and ingestion.

Personally, we advise against using any PVC yoga mats for your pilates or yoga practices. If you already have a mat made of polyvinyl chloride and want to be extra cautious, you can think about switching to a more secure one.

You can get closer to nature by selecting an eco-friendly product devoid of dangerous pollutants and contaminants. Your body, mind, and soul are connected when you live by the yoga philosophy outside of the mat and choose to be more environmentally friendly. It enables you to turn off your sense of smell and direct all of your concentration to your practice. Every decision we make on a daily basis has a bigger effect on us and everyone else. Even if making a change is as easy as choosing an eco-friendly option over a cheap PVC material mat you saw online, it has a significant impact.

Choose mats made of natural rubber to reduce your exposure to PVC and to support chemical-free flooring. Due to the use of natural dyes and the characteristics of the material, these may still have a slight fragrance when first used.

Make wise choices and of course, you can always learn more by visiting our website.