Can Chemicals In Yoga Mats Make Women Infertile?

A new study suggests that there might be a link between products such as yoga mats and infertility among women — at least when it comes to the chemicals found in these products.

The study, which involved researchers from Harvard University and the University of Michigan, took a look at 211 women who had checked into the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center for in vitro fertilization screening. According to Forbes, the researchers evaluated the women for exposure to organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs), which can be found in products that use polyurethane foam, such as car seats, sofas, computer chairs, and yoga mats.

Infertility, as it turned out, was a huge risk of exposure to PFRs, as women with these chemicals in their urine had a 40 percent smaller chance of successfully giving birth, or even getting pregnant. The New York Daily News wrote that about 80 percent of the women were found to have PFRs in their system, and that also meant a 10 percent reduced chance of successful fertilization, and a 31 percent lower chance of successful embryo implantation.

In a statement, senior author Russ Hauser said that it’s highly advisable for couples trying to get pregnant via IVF to reduce their exposure to products that may contain the flame retardants in question.

“Couples undergoing IVF and trying to improve their chances of success by reducing their exposure to environmental chemicals may want to opt for products that are flame-retardant free.”

Separately, an article posted on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website detailed how chemicals in yoga mats could lead to infertility. While these items are obviously inedible, the PFRs contained within them are capable of moving from the foam through contact with the human body, and even in the air people breathe.

As further noted by the New York Daily News, the new study is the first to link the flame retardants found in upholstered products such as yoga mats to infertility. But it isn’t the first notable one to point out the dangers of flame retardants to the health of living creatures. It was more than a decade ago when PentaBDE and other flame retardants were phased out, after studies linked these agents to negative health effects in animals. And while today’s flame retardants were, at the time, thought to be much safer, the above-mentioned study suggests that that might not be the case after all.

On the other hand, Forbes wrote that the study has its share of limitations, including the fact that the results were taken from a limited population and a specific location in Massachusetts. Moreover, the researchers did not investigate all the potential factors that could compromise a woman’s fertility, and did not specify how often the women were exposed to yoga mats and other products with PFRs. But as far as fertility being affected by PFRs is concerned, Forbes added that the study’s results further corroborated the belief that the chemical agents could mess with the reproduction process.

Those looking for yoga mats that won’t lead to infertility due to their PFR content can check out this 2016 blog post on Livestrong, or this similar list of “non-toxic” yoga mats published by EcoWatch earlier this year. But as Forbes warned, changing your yoga mats might not be enough to reduce exposure to PFRs, as the chemicals can be found in so many other common household items.

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