by Alison Jolicoeur
January 9th 2011
This past December, Belgium, followed by France, banned the sale of all foam puzzle mats due to the presence of a toxic chemical, formamide. For me this was extremely troublesome, considering I covered a large section of my floor with these mats. They are quite useful in preventing many clunks to the head of my little one, but I am concerned now about the potential toxicity and angry that the issue hasn't gained any attention in the US.
The mats are made of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam, and according to Test-Achat (www.test-achats.be), an independent consumer researcher in Belgium, the majority of the brands tested in 2009, emitted the toxic chemical formamide. The information is conufsing because on the one hand formamide is said to be a corrosive solvent used to soften the foam and make it pliable, and on the other, it is a bydproduct of the manufacturing process. Regardless, tests have found the chemical's presence in enough foam mats to initiate the ban. Children are especially at risk considering they put everything in their mouths. According to Wikipedia, pure chemical formamide is:
"highly corrosive on contact with skin or eyes and may be deadly if ingested. Inhalation of large amounts of formamide vapor may require medical attention. It is also a teratogen. Formamide should never be handled without proper safety attire including gloves and goggles.."
After hearing the news I quickly contacted the manufacturer of my Best Step mats, Venture Products. They informed me that they are in the process of having the mats tested and should have the results by the end of this week. As soon as I obtain the results, I will post them here.(click here to read statement from Venture Products) In the meantime, this is a response by Skip Hop, that's been circulating around the Internet..
Belgium has taken the lead in removing these mats from the marketplace and will impose a 20,000 euro fine to anyone found selling them, which further emphasizes the seriousness of the issue. As of 2013 formamide will be banned for use in children's products across Europe. I still have many unanswered questions, however, including, what was the level of formamide found in the mats tested in Belgium, and how long do the mats continue to off-gas? I've had my mats for several months now, so perhaps the chemical emissions have subsided. But I'm not willing to take the risk. I am in the process of purchasing a natural 100% wool rug to replace them.