Guest post: Sick Building, Unsafe Practice: Toxic Threats to Avoid
This is not a post for hypochondriacs. Being a bit of one myself, I can echo concerns about the use of wack toxic cleaners in facilities (especially when working in conventional gyms). I'm less scared of asbestos, but just in case you were looking for something else to be worried about, in this guest post Eric Stevenson provides information, and some good links, about asbestos risks.
Yoga instructors may experience any number of practical instruction challenges, including negative feedback or financial difficulty. While these sobering realities largely cannot be avoided, simply representing another business challenge, other aspects of instruction can and should be controlled whenever possible. Besides ensuring one’s facility has the required equipment, environmental safety remains crucial. One of the greatest dangers, especially for a discipline with such a strong emphasis on breathing, is the air quality. Proper ventilation becomes vital, especially as more students enter a studio. Furthermore, chemical dangers often lie unseen, silently impacting those who frequent unsafe buildings.
With the modern rise in physical and mental disorders, including respiratory, heart and developmental damage, indoor air pollutants deserve a major focus. Although many of these dangers are well-documented, like lead, some hidden pollutants threaten to harm yoga practitioners over an extended period of time because symptoms of their harm frequently manifest slowly, sometimes taking years to develop. One most dangerous chemical that does not cause immediate symptoms of disease is asbestos, which leads the development of a lethal cancer known as mesothelioma. Unfortunately, mesothelioma symptoms can lie dormant for decades, usually only appearing in an advanced stage. After inhaling asbestos, a mineral once popular for its ability to insulate, the tiny particles embed in the tissue surrounding the lung, eventually causing the growth of tumors.
Although relatively safe when undamaged, when asbestos becomes fragmented, it presents a serious risk to anyone who comes into contact with it. If a studio is located in an older building, built before asbestos regulation officially began, instructors need to be mindful of the facilities they choose. Especially in buildings that must endure the strain of physical instruction, like yoga, choosing a facility free of toxins remains essential because of the increased chance of exposure. Furthermore, individuals risk secondhand exposure to this carcinogen because it can travel on the clothing, hair and mats of those initially exposed. Therefore, entire families get put at risk when one member enters these sick buildings. Historically, wives of industrial workers saw a high rate of mesothelioma development because they typically washed and handled the clothing their husbands wore on jobs working with asbestos. Individuals exercising in these unsafe buildings risk committing the same dangerous pattern with their own families.
Mesothelioma symptoms frequently appear mild at first, imitating other illnesses like pneumonia and making early treatment difficult. While a healthy lifestyle can help prevent the onset of this disease, after initial symptoms appear patients typically only have an eight to 14 month life expectancy. Besides a responsibility to ensure students learn yoga’s proper practice and purpose, instructors also must ensure students are free of the indoor toxins that can permanently threaten their health. Proper practice of yoga requires a complete sense of relaxation and comfort, which is impossible to achieve in poor conditions. If a facility appears to be in disrepair, especially if it is an older building, students and instructors should ensure their safety and avoid these toxic environments. Because no cure for mesothelioma currently exists, avoiding contact with this toxic material represents the best chance to contribute to the health benefits of yoga and ensure a long life free of disease.