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Toxic Plastic

  • InNon-toxic Home

    Non-Toxic Yoga Mats and DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner


    So you’ve finally made it to a yoga class and you're sweating out toxins and you're doing your deep belly breathing. You're detoxing, right? But somewhere between Warrior 1 and Down Dog, are you absorbing even more chemicals back in through your toxic yoga mat?

    Chances are, that your yoga mat actually is made of toxic materials that are leaching harmful chemicals. The most common material for yoga mats is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which if you're not already familiar with it, is a form of plastic that has been made pliable and soft through phthalates and other chemical plasticizers.

    From pilates to physical therapy, plenty of people have a mat around the house that’s not used for yoga, but the toxic considerations remain the same. We’re huge fans of yoga (and exercise and movement in general) but it’s no secret how much we detest PVC. Vinyl (#3 recycling code) is commonly used as a nickname for PVC and it's everywhere in modern life, even in our exercise mats.

    Why go to all the trouble to avoid toxic PVC (vinyl) plastic?

    Lead. Phthalates. VOC's. Dioxin. Just for starters. It's nothing to mess around with, especially considering that these chemicals are well-established carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that wreak havoc on our bodies.

    Keep an eye out for soft, flexible vinyl – the most problematic because of the stabilizers (like lead and other heavy metals) and plasticizers (like phthalates) required to make it more pliable.

    • Due to its chlorinated makeup, the entire life cycle of vinyl is responsible for the formation of more dioxin than any other single product. Dioxin is a well-known carcinogen and can affect the reproductive, immune, endocrine and neurological systems.
    • Chlorine production for PVC results in the release of over 200,000 pounds of mercury to air, water and land each year.
    • To make vinyl products flexible, controversial plasticizers known as phthalates are used, accounting for nearly 90 percent of total phthalate consumption. This translates into more than five million tons used for vinyl every year.
    • Lead is often added to vinyl construction products as a stabilizer to extend its life. It is estimated that 45,000 tons of lead each year are released into the environment during its disposal by incineration.

    You'll need to assume that the term “vinyl” means PVC unless you've been able to verify the details with manufacturer.

    Is your yoga mat actually toxic?

    But what about phthalate-free vinyl (PVC #3)? That's safe, right?

    While it's a step in the right direction, we're still left to worry about with many other harmful chemicals common to PVC. Even phthalate-free PVC still isn’t a safe plastic because of the other harmful chemicals often used during production. The Center for Health Environment and Justice names the following possible concerns with PVC:

    • May contain dioxin (a known carcinogen)
    • May contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)
    • May contain organotins
    • May contain lead, cadmium and other metals
    • Heat and humidity can increase the release of these chemicals
    Heat and humidity are common (and even expected) in yoga classes, so if you're using a PVC mat, conditions are right for it to release toxic compounds.Click To Tweet

    Have you ever purchased a new yoga mat and then unrolled for the first time and been unpleasantly surprise by a chemically “new yoga mat” smell? Does that mean it’s off-gassing toxins? If it’s made from PVC, probably. If it’s made from natural rubber, no. Natural rubber products (which we'll discuss later on this article) have a strong smell for the first several weeks until they air out, but they aren't off-gassing toxins.

    What about TPE?

    Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) is being sold as an eco-friendly alternative to PVC and most new-to-market yoga mats are made with it and being marketed as “safe” or “safer”. It's a more stable compound that is manufactured with closed cell technology (so sweat, germs, and microbes don't penetrate the surface) but it's too new to say how it interacts with our bodies. And while TPE is free of Bisphenol-A (BPA), PVC, Lead, Phthalates, and Dioxins, there are still concerns about its long term safety. It's definitely cheaper and more durable than all natural materials, but we're sticking with recommendations for sustainable, all natural yoga mats.

    But as we always say: this is a journey. The idea is to start by making one lifestyle change at a time.

    Non-Toxic Yoga Mats (that are also eco-friendly and sustainable), plus our DIY recipe for safe yoga mat cleaner #greencleaning #yogamat #yoga #nontoxicyoga

    Non-Toxic Yoga Mat Materials

    So where does that leave us when we want a truly non-toxic (and eco-friendly) yoga mat or exercise mat?

    We used to focus on frugal choices because like dad used to say, money doesn’t grow on trees. . . but fortunately, sustainable cork and natural rubber do grow on trees! So now we focus on quality over cost, as much as possible.

    Non-toxic yoga mats tend to be made from all natural materials which are also biodegradable. Being biodegradable, they will start to break down over time which is both a pro and a con since sometimes they start breaking down while we're still using them. All natural mats are also more expensive and heavier than the cheap $15 PVC mats. That’s okay by us though, we’re willing to sacrifice convenience for our health!

    Options for non-toxic and sustainable yoga mats include:

    • Cork (cork is made from cork trees in Portugal – which are not cut down in the harvesting process – and is naturally antimicrobial and maintains its grip even under sweaty conditions)
    • Jute
    • All natural rubber
    • Hemp and organic cotton (for yoga rugs/towels, but not for a true cushioned and grippy mat)

    Natural rubber products may also have a strong ‘natural rubber’ smell until they full air out over a few weeks. If you are allergic to latex, use caution with natural rubber although many manufacturers do state that their natural rubber is still safe for latex allergies.

    Non-Toxic Yoga Mat Recommendations

    This list isn't comprehensive of every non-toxic choice available on the market, but these have been the highest rated that meet our criteria. And…they're stylin' too. 😍 Read the reviews before you buy to see feedback on how it worked for different uses such as thickness for knee cushioning, stability, and portability (some all natural rubber mats can be very heavy).

    DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner Recipe

    Okay, so now that you’ve invested in a safe yoga mat (or at least you're planning on it), you’ll want an all natural cleaning spray to keep it clean!

    Fortunately, Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) is inexpensive and readily available. It's naturally antiseptic, anti-microbial, and effective but still gentle enough to be used on the skin. And clinical Research is now supporting what we've seen for years.

    “A wealth of in vitro data now supports the long-held beliefs that TTO has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.”

    Essential Oil Yoga Mat Cleaner

    This is the fun part where you get to play essential oil alchemist. The following cleaning base recipe can be tweaked and customized with whatever essential scents are most appealing to you. (Check out our post on the differences between absolute and essential oils)

    DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner #yogamat #diy

    Essential Oil Yoga Mat Spray

    • 1 2 oz or 4 oz spray bottles (we like sturdy glass bottles like these ones)
    • Approximately 3/4 cup of water
    • 1/4 cup Witch Hazel (white vinegar can also be used)
    • 5 drops tea tree oil
    • 2 drops eucalyptus oil (optional)
    • 2-3 drops of lavender, lemongrass, or lemon essential oil (optional)

    Mix together in a bowl or a measuring cup (a pyrex measuring cup works well) and pour into your glass or stainless steel spray bottle. Spray over mat and wipe down with a clean cloth and let air dry. 

    NOTE: Lavender essential oil is toxic to cats (although fresh lavender is not), and full strength (100% undiluted) tea tree oil is toxic to both cats and dogs, so be safe and use this disinfectant spray out of their reach.

    Non-Toxic Yoga Mats (that are also eco-friendly and sustainable), plus our DIY recipe for safe yoga mat cleaner #greencleaning #yogamat #yoga #nontoxicyoga

    Before we sign off, here's one more handy tip for keeping those floor germs off your hands and face when you're practicing yoga or pilates.

    When you've finished your practice, instead of starting at the end of your mat and rolling it up, instead, fold the practicing surface of your yoga mat in half and THEN roll it up. That way the surface that touches your face and hands never comes in contact with the surface that touches the ground.

    Do you have another favorite non-toxic mat that we didn't list? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

  • InBaby Nursery, Non-toxic Home

    Non-Toxic Nursery Decorating 101

    Decorating the nursery is a special and important part of welcoming a new addition to your family. However, so many household products are filled with toxins that it’s difficult to find a way to make your baby’s space free from dangerous fibers and chemicals. Here are a few tips to help you!

    Read more
  • InNon-toxic Home

    Study Finds Eating Naked Lowers BPA Levels by 60 Percent

    Our suspicions about the health of eating naked have been undoubtedly confirmed by our friends at the Breast Cancer Fund.  They conducted a landmark study in humans with the help of the Silent Spring Institute over a two year period.  They asked, and answered, some looming questions about BPA and phthalates in food packaging.

    For three days, each family ate only fresh food, no cans or plastic packaging. The effect was shocking!  Who’d have guessed that their BPA levels could ever drop a whopping 60 percent in such a short time frame?

    Eating Naked is the Only Way to Go

    Wow!  This study underlines that eating real, whole food should be a top priority for families looking to make significant inroads to healthier living.  And even more reason to skip some of the absurdities out there like Del Monte’s single serve bananas (seriously?!).

    Tips for Reducing Your Exposure Quickly

    We’ve been singing this song for quite a while, so we gathered all of our favorite tips for decreasing your exposure to hormone mimicking chemicals in food:

    • Avoid canned foods, unless you find products specifically labeled as BPA-free (see our Guide)
    • Cook at home with fresh foods as often as possible and if you do eat out, bring your own containers and skip the polystyrene/Styrofoam containers
    • Make simple changes to your food storage containers by choosing glass, stainless steel or product confirmed free of BPA, PVC and Phthalates (see our Guide)
    • Do not microwave your plastic dishes (see our Tips)
    • Place plastic dishes (even BPA-free ones) on the top rack of the dishwasher and skip commercial sterilizers (see our Tips)
    • Skip PVC food wrap often found on commercially prepared foods, such as meat and cheese blocks (see our Tips)
    • Educate yourself about what plastics are what, and then begin contacting manufacturers to confirm the info for yourself with our FREE Guide on How to Do Your Own Research
    • Download the Breast Cancer Fund’s very helpful 10 Canned Foods to Avoid wallet card for your next shopping trip.

    Take Action for a Long-term Solution

    Take a stand with us and the Breast Cancer Fund to push America’s top canned food manufacturers get rid of BPA in their products to protect our health.

    Ask Campbell Soup Co., Del Monte Foods and General Mills (maker of Progresso, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen) what they’re doing to get BPA out of their food packaging and out of our bodies.  If they’re phasing out BPA, what non-toxic alternative are they replacing it with?

  • InToxic Chemicals

    Canada Officially Declares BPA Toxic

    Canada just became the first country to declare bisphenol A (BPA) to be a toxic chemical that poses risks to health and the environment. The official notice states:

    Therefore, it was concluded that bisphenol A should be considered as a substance that may be entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.

    The announcement came shortly after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) dismissed concerns of neurological, developmental and behavioral effects raised recently in scientific studies.  The decision was also made despite serious opposition from the American Chemistry Council, who insists that the move went against the weight of scientific evidence and will cause unnecessary alarm.

    I have to agree with Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence and co-author of Slow Death by Rubber Duck, who told the New York Times that he hoped that the government would ban BPA from infant formula can linings. Polycarbonate baby bottles used to be our greatest concern, but a hearty grassroots movement against BPA in baby bottles caused most manufacturers to drop the endocrine-disrupting chemical some time ago. The next most concerning exposure for developing babies comes in liquid formula sold in metal cans.

    So is the U.S. next?  At this point I honestly don't foresee a BPA ban happening here anytime soon, so choosing the right formula is important. SafeMama did a lot of the homework for parents in her Infant Formula Cheat Sheet, taking into account other chemical additives in addition to BPA.

  • InHealthy Baby, Toxic Chemicals

    Phthalates May Harm Mental Development and Soften Bones

    Yep – phthalates are in the headlines again.  This time with even more damning evidence in two recently released studies.

    Bone Plasticizers?

    Environmental Health News (EHN) discussed a study published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry in which phthalates were found to provoke DNA damage that can lead to bone cell death in mouse cells.  According to the researchers, it is probable that chronic exposure to phthalates at low concentrations will affect new bone formation with implications on bone homeostasis and mineral density.

    EHN explains the roll of estrogen-mimicking phthalates:

    This study shows how a low-dose exposure to two types of commonly found phthalates has a profound effect on bone cells. Based on the results, long-term exposure to phthalates could have devastating effects on developing bones in young bodies and accelerate deterioration in aging bones.  Estrogen deficiency is responsible for a number of bone diseases such as osteoporosis.  For this reason, many are concerned about the effects of phthalate exposure on bone health.

    It's amazing to think that plasticizers are capable of working to soften bones the same way they soften plastic!

    Girls with Decreased Mental Development?

    To further condemn phthalates, Simple Steps (a resource of NRDC) reviewed a study by researchers at Mount Sinai Children’s Medical Health Center.  They found that newborn girls whose mothers have high levels of phthalates contained in plastics show markedly lower levels of attention and alertness than newborn boys of similar mothers.

    Significantly, this is one of the first studies to look at the effects of phthalates on infant girls. These chemicals have already been associated with altered male genital development, damage to DNA in sperm and decreased sperm quality.  One cause for the altered behavior may be phthalate-related low thyroid levels in the mother and the effects of phthalates on thyroid levels have been documented. Because the mother supplies all of the fetus thyroid hormones during the first half of pregnancy when brain development is in its initial phases, low thyroid levels at this point can be very harmful.

    Simple Steps recommends the following actions to avoid the damaging effects of phthalates:

    • Avoid buying plastics that may be treated with phthalates, including vinyl toys, shower curtains, gloves or other products. Look for “PVC”, “V” or  the“3” recycling code on the object or its packaging.
    • If you have vinyl tiling in your home, damp mop regularly since phthalates bind to dust on the floor.  Direct sunlight on vinyl tiles causes it to release phthalates more quickly so put lower blinds on windows that shine directly on flooring. Finally, if you’re already considering replacing the flooring, choose non-vinyl options such as cork, linoleum, wood or stone.
    • Toys with the worst phthalates should already be off the shelves, but check to see if toys you already own have them.
    • Look for products that don’t include fragrance in their ingredients.
    • When buying cosmetics, purchase from companies that have pledged not use phthalates.