HomeHealthFitnessThe Toxic Truth About Your Workout Clothes

    The Toxic Truth About Your Workout Clothes

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    You may think that your workout clothes are helping you stay fit and healthy, but they could be exposing you to a toxic chemical that can harm your health. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical compound that is used to make certain types of plastic and can leach into your skin from your clothing. BPA can disrupt your hormones, increase your risk of asthma, cardiovascular disease and obesity, and even affect your fertility.

    According to a watchdog group, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), an increasing number of sports bra and athletic wear brands have been found with high levels of BPA in them. The group tested leggings, shorts, sports bras, and athletic shirts from various brands and found that some of them could expose wearers to up to 40 times the safe limit of BPA, based on standards set in California.

    two women in sports bras looking at each other
    Photo by Sasha Kim on

    The CEH sent legal notices to eight more brands in May 2023, after warning customers in October 2022 about BPA in athletic clothes from other brands. The group also initiated lawsuits against some of the companies for violating California law.

    The CEH said that it has found BPA only in polyester-based clothing containing spandex. The group suspects that BPA is used as an additive to make the fabric more stretchy and durable. However, the exact source and amount of BPA in each product is unknown, as the manufacturers are not required to disclose this information.

    BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, which means that it can interfere with the normal functioning of hormones in your body. Hormones regulate many aspects of your health, such as your metabolism, mood, growth, reproduction, and immune system. Exposure to BPA can alter the levels and activity of hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, insulin, and thyroid hormones.

    According to Healthline, a health information website, some of the potential health effects of BPA exposure include:

    • Asthma: BPA can trigger inflammation and allergic reactions in the airways, leading to asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

    • Cardiovascular disease: BPA can damage the lining of blood vessels and increase blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

    • Obesity: BPA can affect the metabolism of fat cells and glucose, leading to weight gain and insulin resistance. BPA can also disrupt the signals that regulate appetite and satiety, making you eat more than you need.
    man and woman doing squats during a workout
    Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on
    • Fertility: BPA can affect the development and function of reproductive organs and hormones in both men and women. BPA can reduce sperm quality and quantity in men, and cause irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and miscarriage in women. BPA can also affect the quality and implantation of embryos during assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF.

    • Development: BPA can affect the brain development and behavior of children and fetuses. BPA can impair learning, memory, attention span, mood regulation, and social skills. BPA can also cause early puberty in girls and genital abnormalities in boys.

    The CEH advises consumers to avoid buying or wearing polyester-based clothing containing spandex. The group also recommends washing new clothes before wearing them and avoiding clothes that have a strong chemical smell. The group urges consumers to contact their favorite brands and ask them to stop using BPA or other bisphenols in their products.

    The CEH also calls for more regulation and transparency from the government and the industry regarding the use of chemicals in clothing. The group says that consumers have a right to know what they are putting on their bodies and how it may affect their health.

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