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What are California Prop 65 & REACH, and Why You Should Care

What are California Prop 65 & REACH, and Why You Should Care

Regulations for substances known to cause birth defects and reproductive harm.

If you’re like me, you’ve at some point purchased something online only to receive it with a sticker that reads: “known to the State of California to cause [cancer] [birth defects or other reproductive harm]”

These warnings inform Californians about their exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Even if you don’t live in California, if the product passed through the state through shipping, customs, or was warehoused there, it is required to have the label.


Proposition 65 requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 900 chemicals since it was first published in 1987.

The list contains a wide range of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that include additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, food, drugs, dyes, or solvents. Listed chemicals may also be used in manufacturing and construction, or they may be byproducts of chemical processes, such as motor vehicle exhaust.

In the same way that California Proposition 65 is designed to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, REACH is a similar program regulated by the European Union and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Each of these government agencies require this information be provided in order for customers to make informed decisions about their exposures to these chemicals. REACH addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment.

While EU REACH and California Proposition 65 have differences in the chemicals they screen on their lists, the combined efforts of these two regulations are helping to make our world a cleaner and safer space.


While the lists are comprehensive and include over 1,000 chemicals combined – the most notable chemicals found in the manufacturing, production and composition of yoga mats are:

  • Azodicarbonamide (ADA)
    Known as the ‘yoga mat chemical’ after notable food chains like Subway, Wendy’s and Burger King were exposed for including this product in their bread. When heated, ADA releases carcinogens including ethyl carbamate, with the chemical linked to DNA damage and an increased risk of cancer. ADA has also been linked to immunosuppression

  • Phthalates
    Phthalates are typically found in PVC mats, and have been shown to leach out of materials when they become warm, making it a particular problem for anyone doing hot yoga. Phthalates have been linked to a range of troublesome health issues, including infertility, menstrual problems and other conditions and diseases

  • Parabens
    Parabens are commonly used preservatives that prevent mold and bacteria growth in moisturizers, shampoos, soaps, deodorants and makeup, but can also be found in yoga mats. Some of the most commonly used parabens you may see in products are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben. There is some debate about frequent use of parabens and phthalates during pregnancy. Some animal studies have linked chemicals like parabens and phthalates during pregnancy to possible risks such as reproductive issues.

  • PFAs
    Women exposed to PFAs during pregnancy have higher risks of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, a type of high blood pressure. Their babies are more likely to undergo abnormal growth in utero, leading to low birth weight, and later face increased risk of childhood obesity and infections.

  • Formaldehyde
    Formaldehyde exposure during pregnancy is associated with increased risks of defects ranging from birth malformations, miscarriage and fertility problems.

  • Benzene
    Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires, it is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. High exposure to benzene during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, an increased risk of childhood leukemia and a greater incidence of birth defects such as spina bifida. Benzene is widely used in the United States.

  • Organophosphate Flame Retardants (PFRs)
    PFRs are a class of chemicals that are commonly used in the polyurethane foam in upholstered furniture, baby products such as nursing pillows, bouncers, and swings, and yoga mats to make them less flammable. A growing body of research suggests exposure to PFRs can disrupt the hormones involved in reproduction and embryo/fetus growth.

  • Bisphenol-A (BPA)
    BPA is used in plastic packaging and in the linings of food and beverage cans, it may be passed from a mother to her offspring during pregnancy. There has been some concern that exposure to BPA in extremely high doses may cause birth defects and miscarriage. Other studies have related BPA exposure in utero with low birth weight and childhood asthma and obesity, but more research is needed to confirm this.

  • Styrene-Butadiene-Styrene (SBS)
    Styrene has been shown to cross the placenta. Studies in animals suggest that styrene and styrene oxide have embryotoxic or fetotoxic effects early in pregnancy.

Visit this link for a full list of Prop 65 chemicals.

Visit this link for a full list of REACH chemicals.

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