Sometimes the internet can lead you down a road you definitely didn't start out on, and you can't always know what is true and what is false. One woman's erratic searching led her to read that yoga mats were linked to infertility. Unsure if what she read was real, she sought out UCLA health specialists Dr. Eve Glazier and Dr. Elizabeth Ko, and got a surprisingly lengthy response.
Short answer: No! The scientific study that caused waves in the news cycle specifically looked at the link between fertility and organophosphate flame retardants, commonly referred to as PFRs. PFRs are found in household items like couches, carpets, remotes, nail polish, and many other items that we come into contact with daily (ie. some gym mats that may have been confused for yoga mats). The study found that women with higher rates of PFRs in their system had a 38% lower rate of live births. Should you be worried? Short answer: also no.
You should not worry...yet. While the debate on chemicals affecting our bodies is a controversial one, don't be inclined to throw out all of your furniture tomorrow! One aspect of the study that might not have been given enough light in the media was the fact that the female participants were all enrolled in an IVF program, or in vitro fertilization. This insinuates that the women a part of this specific research was already facing fertility issues before being placed in the study. This, of course, makes it difficult to differentiate the findings from their already present difficulties with conception.
The results have spoken, but what do they mean? Even looking past the fact that the female participants experienced prior discrepancies with fertility before the study, there still remains a very important issue: sample size. The study was conducted with 211 participants. This relatively small sample insists that more research is done on the subject before statistical significance can be proven (and also before gym mats can be considered dangerous). So take a deep breath, because your yoga mat probably doesn't have any flame retardants in it anyway. While chemicals are still a very real issue, knowing that your yoga mat won't harm you or your reproductive organs when you inhale during your Om exercises is something to breathe about. Happy moms equal happy babies, so get back to your practice!