Use Eco-friendly and PVC-free Yoga Mats to Avoid Phthalates and Other Toxic Chemicals



Once I began exercising again after my third child was born, I decided it was time to retire my decade-old yoga mat and invest in a new one. My old yoga mat was very thin and not very high quality (it came free with a yoga DVD), but still usable. However, after years and years of using it, it dawned on me that it was almost certainly made of vinyl (PVC).

PVC is arguably the most toxic plastic. It's made with toxic chlorine which results in toxic dioxin being released into the environment. PVC products are also made using toxic additives such as lead and endocrine-distrupting phthalates, additives which readily migrate and off-gas during the use of PVC products. I especially wasn't comfortable with exposure to phthalates, which are added to PVC to make it soft and flexible (like a yoga mat), and which readily migrate to the surface of PVC products in which they are found. Phthalates also readily pass from mother to fetus through the placenta and are also found in breastmilk.

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to:
  • lower testosterone levels
  • decreased sperm counts
  • poor sperm quality
  • malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer
  • obesity
  • reduced female fertility
  • preterm birth and low birthweight
  • a worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms
  • behavior changes


Natural (PVC-free) Yoga Mats


Ten years ago, I'm guessing it was pretty difficult to find a PVC-free yoga mat. But now, thankfully, there are many PVC-free options. I wanted a natural rubber mat, and also a thicker one that would give me some decent cushion on top of my hardwood floor. I ended up purchasing the Gaiam Sol Power-Grip Yoga Mat made of natural rubber (note: I remember that it smelled strongly of rubber initially). It is pretty thick (4 mm) and has a nice grip to it too. I use my mat for beginning yoga but also for general exercise (while barefoot on hardwood) that includes pilates, weights, cardio, and stretching. I do not get super sweaty when I workout and am not terribly concerned about slippage. If you are a serious yogi, see the reviews below by yoga experts.

Some other natural (PVC-free) yoga mats include:
Manduka eKO Yoga Mats (natural rubber and Oeko-Tex certified, available in several thicknesses)
Jade Yoga's Harmony Professional Yoga Mat (natural rubber)
Jade Yoga's Encore Yoga Mat (natural and recycled rubber)
Prana Revolution Natural Sticky Mat (natural rubber)
Gaiam makes several other rubber mats in various thicknesses: 1mm, 3mm, 6mm, 8mm
Barefoot Yoga Original Yoga Mat (jute and rubber)
Yogasana Yoga Mat (100% cotton, handmade in India, washable)


TPE and PER Plastic Yoga Mats


There are also less expensive synthetic yoga mats made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) and Polymer Environmental Resin (PER). TPE is a synthetic rubber that is touted as a healthy alternative to PVC. According to Thinksport, TPE is "free of BPA, PVC, Lead, Phthalates, Dioxins, and biologically toxic chemicals." What exactly TPE is I couldn't tell you. But I feel confident stating that it is far better than traditional PVC.

Yoga Mats Made from Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) 
Thinksport Yoga and Pilates Mat (TPE)
Gaiam Sol Suddha Eco Yoga Mat (4mm)
Hugger Mugger Earth Elements Mat (TPE)
Little Yoga Mat for kids (TPE)

Probably the least expensive alternative to traditional PVC is Polymer Environmental Resin (PER), which is touted as a less-toxic form of PVC. According to one manufacturer, which describes PER as "clean PVC," PER is free of "phthalates, dioxins and furans, phenal, or heavy metals and has a ecologically safer method of production which is better for the workers and the environment."

Yoga mats made from Polymer Environmental Resin (PER)
Hugger Mugger Sattva Jute Mat (jute and PER)
Barefoot Yoga Natural Jute and PER Yoga Mat (jute and PER)
Bean Product's Yoga Mat (they also make a kid-sized "Buggie" mat) (PER)
Natural Fitness Eco-smart Yoga Mat (PER)
Namaste Kid's Eco-friendly Kids Yoga Mat (PER)

For my daughter, who often likes to "exercise" with me, I got a smaller mat so it wouldn't take up as much room. I purchased the Namaste Kid's Eco-friendly Kids Yoga Mat (made of PER). It measures 24" by 48" and is much thinner than mine, but suitable for my toddler, 4yo or even 6yo. It's main purpose is really to keep them off my mat and out of my way. I actually didn't realize PER is a form of PVC when I bought it. I couldn't find a small-sized rubber yoga mat. In retrospect, I would have preferred a TPE mat such as the Little Yoga Mat for my kids, but I don't feel strongly enough about it to stop using the PER mat.


Looking for additional PVC-free products? Check out these posts that describe and review PVC-free:

Stay tuned for additional posts about PVC-free alternatives to traditionally vinyl products.

Related Posts

What's So Bad About Vinyl Plastic (PVC)?
Pregnancy, Pain, and Prenatal Exercise DVDs
Eco-friendly Yoga Mats (ConsumerSearch)
Want an eco-friendly yoga mat? Here's what you need to know (Consumer Reports)

Additional Eco-friendly Yoga Mat Reviews for Serious Yogis

Manduka Yoga Mat and unBLOK Party by Groovy Green Livin
The Best (and Worst) Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats by Om Shanti
Yoga Mat Speed Dating (Product Review) by A Charmed Yogi
Eco Yogini has several posts about yoga mats, including this summary which links to most of her other posts.


How do you avoid PVC?

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