《Yoga Mats – How to Avoid Inhaling Harmful Substances?》

10 August 2020

You could be inhaling harmful substances from your yoga mat
After seeing your friends doing all those super difficult yoga poses from their photos, are you eager to try as well? First of all, you should get yourself a yoga mat that protects well.  But you should pay attention in selecting the right mat.  Previously the Consumer Council has conducted a test on certain yoga mats in the market, and found that some of them contain toxic substances. 

Understand what is “formamide”
Yoga mats that are available in the market are made from different materials and one of them is ethylene vinyl acetate (or EVA).  Why should we pay attention to EVA?  Because according to a research report released by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES), foam puzzle mats made from EVA were found to contain “formamide” and ANSES suggested that the level of formamide emission be subject to limitation.

What exactly is “formamide”? According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), it is classified as a toxic for reproduction category 1B.  Animal studies showed that prolonged exposure to formamide could cause harm on their haematopoietic and reproductive systems.  A number of researches further indicated that formamide can cause embryotic and teratogenic effects on various species and via different ways of exposure.  Think of those yoga poses that require touching your face with the yoga mat while taking a deep breath.  If the mat were to release harmful substances, you would then be inhaling all the “toxic chemicals”.  

From the formamide tests on yoga mats, let’s take note on the following…...
Of the 30 models tested, different quantities of formamide were detected in 28 of them, but the level detected in 9 models even exceeded the EU’s Toy Safety Directive’s cut-off limit of 200mg/kg! These 9 models were put to further emission tests to check whether the quantity of formamide emission would exceed 20μg/m3 over a 28-day period. Fortunately, all models were in compliance with the EU’s Toy Safety Directive for the emission test.

How to reduce the risk of inhaling toxic substances?
Under normal room temperature, formamide emission from a yoga mat might not be significant.  However, high room temperature (e.g. when practicing hot yoga) and poor ventilation or placing a few yoga mats in the same room could increase the ambient concentration of formamide which in turn could cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract, causing temporary discomfort.

According to ANSES, the level of formamide emission from foam mats would be the highest in the beginning and would decreases rapidly in the next few days.  In about a month, the emission would drop to a level which is considered safe for human bodies.  Therefore, before using a new yoga mat, it should be left open in a place with good ventilation and kept out of reach of infants and pets for several days. This, in theory, should effectively reduce your chances of breathing in toxic substances from the yoga mat.

Apart from formamide, yoga mats may also contain other substances? For further information, please refer to the article, “Harmful Substances Detected in Yoga Mats with 9 Models Containing Relatively High Level of Formamide”. CHOICE Magazine, Issue 520 (Chinese version only). The article reported test results on various yoga mats in the market, which should enhance your awareness!