- Out of 30 yoga mats tested, 28 contained between 9 mg/kg and 1,270 mg/kg of formamide, with nine models exceeding European Union’s cut-off limit
- Formamide is a reprotoxic substance that is moderately irritating to eyes, skin and mucous membranes, and could cause harm on hematopoietic and reproductive systems
Hong Kong's consumer watchdog on Monday revealed that more than 90 per cent of tested yoga mats contained a substance that could cause irritation to the eyes and skin, and harm the reproductive system.
The Consumer Council found 28 out of 30 yoga mats it tested contained between 9mg/kg and 1,270mg/kg of formamide, with nine models exceeding the European Union Toy Safety Directive's cut-off limit of 200 mg/kg " and the highest model more than five times over the limit.
Formamide is a reprotoxic substance that is moderately irritating to eyes, skin and mucous membranes, and could cause harm on hematopoietic and reproductive systems. Yoga mats are generally made of foam materials containing formamide that are widely used in the plastics and polymers industries.
"Skin may come into direct contact with the mat for a long period of time and over a large area when practising yoga or substances may be inhaled," said Professor Nora Tam Fung-yee, chairwoman of the council's research and testing committee.
"The council calls on the manufacturers to reduce the amount of harmful substances in their yoga mats as far as possible to safeguard consumer health."
The results showed that despite a vast price disparity among the 30 models " from HK$45 to HK$899 " both the most expensive model and one of the cheapest scored the same rating of four points in overall performance, indicating that their price and content of harmful substances were not necessarily related.
The council also tested the mats for dimethyl formamide (DMF), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), plasticisers and product labelling.
Eleven models were detected with PAHs, which could cause cancers and cardiovascular diseases, but the total amounts were in compliance with both the EU's REACH regulation and Germany's voluntary GS Mark requirements.
Three models contained naphthalene " one of the substances in PAHs, classified as a possibly carcinogenic substance " in excess of the GS Mark range of 2mg/kg for any products that would likely have prolonged skin contact.
In addition, two models made with polyurethane (PU) showed a small amount of DMF " respectively 27mg/kg and 96mg/kg " which were comfortably within the EU regulation of 3,000mg/kg for apparel, footwear and other textile consumer goods.
But Tam warned that formamide and DMF were volatile organic compounds, and high room temperatures, poor ventilation or placing a few yoga mats in the room could increase the ambient concentration of the substances, causing irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract.
Five models failed to provide full information on the products' length, width and thickness, while 28 models had no weight information, making it hard for people to make references. Eight models were not labelled with information on the materials, and half had no storage or cleaning instructions.
"Manufacturers are urged to improve their production to minimise the risks posed to consumers when using yoga mats," Tam said.
To avoid coming into contact with or inhaling harmful substances, the council recommended consumers to leave newly bought yoga mats open for several days before using them, then washing their hands after use.
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