It was previously reported that cheap PVC yoga mats from China contained cancer-causing materials. Now, a Harvard study shows that yoga mats containing polyeurethane foam may cause infertility in women.
The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives which showed the possible link between infertility in women and their exposure to organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs), often used in polyurethane foam yoga mats to make them less flammable.
Chemicals in PFRs do not chemically bond to foam and cam migrate through air and dust. So they can enter the body through skin contact and can even be breathed in.
The Harvard study focused on a group of 211 women who went to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Fertility Center for in-vitro fertilization evaluation. The women’s urine was tested for metabolites of PFRs. Women with high amounts of these metabolites faced higher risks of being unable to achieve fertilization.
According to a report by Forbes, although the study was limited to this small group from a specific location, and also did not measure how much exposure to PFRs was from yoa mats, it does support other studies that showed how PFRs disrupt fertility, impair embryo and fetus growth, and even decrease sperm motility.
Previous studies on animals that were mentioned by the researchers showed that PFRs affect fertility by disrupting endocrine function through altered thyroid action, steroidogenesis, or estrogen metabolism.
Unfortunatley, PFRs are found in many more products than yoga mats. They are used in many items to make them flame retardants like sofas, car seats, and other common items that are made of polyurethane foam.