FAIL: Foam floor mats banned in France, Belgium. Shouldn’t we all know about this?

EVA foam mats banned in parts of Europe

Ordered off the shelves in parts of Europe; all is quiet in the U.S.

I actually love these mats. They were great to give some cushion to a crawling baby or unsteady toddler. I was even going to do a post on these being must-haves. Then a couple weeks ago I received news from family and friends in Europe that these were pulled off the market in Belgium and now France because they leached ammonia and a formamide, a a toxic chemical. Other EU countries are expected to follow suit.  Not surprisingly, while this was headline news in Europe, it barely registered in the US other than on a couple of blogs.  I must say that I take all consumer petitions and outcries with a pinch of salt, but when you actually have a government entity admitting to it, then I take notice. So I did some additional research to see what this was all about before chucking them to the curb.

It all started a year ago in Belgium

Back in October 2009 Test-Achat (www.test-achats.be), an independent Consumer-Reports-like tester and researcher in Belgium,  conducted a series of tests on these popular foam children’s floor coverings made of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) (consumer associations in Italy, Portugal and Spain had also taken up this issue) . The great majority of the brands of mats tested contained and, more importantly, leached or emanated formamide, a chemical used to make the tiles soft and bendable and is a known toxic substance. According to Test Achat and other news reports, formamide is harmful to reproduction and fetal development in addition to being an eye and skin irritant. It turns out the mats – especially new ones – emanate various toxins including ammonia and the said formamide. As you can imagine, babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to begin with, are right on top of these things and tend to put everything in their mouths. Test Achat put out an an alert and notified the applicable Belgian government agency about its findings.

December 2010: pulled off the market in Belgium…followed by France

As governments go, Belgium is about as slow as everyone else. They chose to consider Test Achat’s claims (which in itself is impressive) and conduct their own testing across more than 30 brands of these EVA foam mats. On December 11 2010, they announced that their findings concurred with Test Achat’s and moved to pull all the products off of the market. Of the more  than 30 brands tested by the government, all but a couple leached or emanated toxic chemicals. A few days later, the French followed suit and ordered all the same products off the market for three months while they conducted their own tests.

For you French speakers, here’s the story on the Belgian national news.

You can watch the piece on the French national news here.

What are the risks?

The toxic substances found include:

– ammonia and

– formamide which, according to Wikipedia, in its chemical (pure) form 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. There is a small risk of decompostion into hydrogen cyanide and water.

Each of these could be inhaled or ingested (we all know everything goes into baby’s mouth, don’t we).

Health Risks include:

– eye and skin irritation

– reproduction problems

– fetal development problems

– potential cancer risks

So what now?

The French and Belgian authorities have ordered these products taken off the shelves and counseled consumers to remove them from their homes or at least put them away pending confirmation and technical backup by each of the manufacturers that their products do not contain any of these toxic products. It looks like most of them do and it would not be obvious by looking at the packaging anyway. The formamide is used to make them soft and pliable any alternative method to achieve the same result is more expensive. As always, looks like it all comes down to cost! If you know who manufactured your playmats (or check with your retailer), you can ask them directly. If you’re like me and can’t remember where you got them from, that’s another problem.

The reports note that the biggest risk is when the mats are new. Over time, the formamide and other gases dissipate into the air (after we’ve inhaled them of course!). What do you do if you are like this parent and have had the mats for over a year now? There’s a fair chance it’s all dissipated by now… but do you really still want your child rolling around these mats at this point? I think we’ll be buying a nice carpet for the rug-rat.

Use of formamide in toys to be banned across the European Union by 2013 anyway

Formamide, it turns out, isn’t exactly a new comer to consumer safety discussion table.  It’s on the list of chemicals to be banned from use in children’s products across the European Union starting in 2013.

Well, Might as well start now!

UPDATE: Read my my latest post to get the latest developments on the ban including which products have been proven to be safe and which have not.

UPDATE 2: On February 16 2011 Australia also launched a probe into the toxicity of these foam mats. Read about it here.

UPDATE 3Foam Mats Health Risk: The Test Results Are In!

Do you have these at home? What do you think?

Don’t you agree this is something we should get the word out about?

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26 Responses to FAIL: Foam floor mats banned in France, Belgium. Shouldn’t we all know about this?
  1. Kimra Diggs
    January 3, 2011 | 10:59 pm

    I was going to buy these for my 18 month old son for Christmas. Now I’m REALLY glad that I didn’t. Thanx for posting!
    Peace, Love, Wealth
    Kimra Diggs
    Kimra Diggs recently posted…My Love For AnimalsMy Profile

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      January 4, 2011 | 12:58 am

      Hi Kimra. Thanks for your comment! I’m glad the post was useful to you.

      Once again, it seems that the organic solution (like a nice soft carpet) is probably a better alternative to the industrially manufactured one.

  2. […] I used foam mats with both my boys and I just loved them. I wouldn’t worry about my baby crawling on dirty floors or hurting himself because they were very soft. I even used them in my office. I was surprise to find out that they have been banned in Europe and that the government has gotten involved. Please read this article for more information. […]

  3. Susan@Home Workouts
    January 10, 2011 | 10:24 am

    Oh man! I love those things! I am sorry to hear the foam mats don’t work – I was thinking of them for my best friend who is expecting her first child this summer. Thanks for the heads up!
    Susan@Home Workouts recently posted…Is Coconut Oil A Secret Weight Loss WeaponMy Profile

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      January 11, 2011 | 12:25 am

      Hi Susan, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Yeah, I had the same reaction as you did. Quite unfortunate.

  4. […] We have all seen these colorful and cute foam puzzle mats at daycare centers, preschools, and homes. These mats are soft and playful and parents and caregivers often purchase these mats with the intent of keeping their infants safe against falls by padding a hard surface. However, what they didn’t anticipate was that these foam mats were tested and found to contain ammonia and a harmful cancer-causing chemical, formamide. “Formamides are used to soften the foam in the mats but are corrosive and can be deadly,” as reported in an article on Papalogic. […]

  5. Luy
    January 15, 2011 | 11:45 pm

    I bought some foam mats for my daughter when she started crawling. Now that we are done with them, I tried to re-sell them and someone pointed me to this article. I checked the site that we purchased them from and found out that they are formamide,latex, and lead free. I really hope that they’re. Thanks for the article.

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      January 16, 2011 | 5:27 am

      Hi there, glad the article was of use. Regardless of what the manufacturer or retailer says (and hopefully they are correct and honest), it’s still quite unnerving! Thanks for dropping by, papalogic.

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JamesTurnbull, Marilynn McLachlan, Syazwina Saw, Hana Kim, Joseph J. Steinberg and others. Joseph J. Steinberg said: RT @JamesTurnbull: VERY IMPORTANT news for all parents http://ow.ly/405pC Am throwing my daughters' ones out immediately! […]

  7. […] i dont know if you have seen this but it's worth a read http://www.papalogic.com/fail-foam-p…rance-belgium/ […]

  8. […] Families by James Turnbull on February 21, 2011 Admittedly not my usual sort of post, but then this news hit very close to […]

  9. Alison
    June 20, 2011 | 6:18 pm

    Just saw this and wondered if the foam letter and number puzzles are also part of this? And what about the foam bath toys?

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      June 30, 2011 | 5:05 am

      Hi Alison – I’m not exactly sure which products you are referring, but this specific recall is focused on these foam mats that typically connect like puzzles and contain removable letters and numbers in the middle. There are lots of types of foam toys, and they are often quite different so hard to say.

      Thanks,

      papalogic.

  10. Ericka
    June 29, 2011 | 9:25 pm

    I have used these mats for about a year. My youngest has en skin irritation eczema, I wonder if this is the problem. I had changed my babies life around so his eczema gets better, so I remove the mats at soon as I read this. Should I be worry and take him to the doctor? He is very healthy, smart, and acts normal. I will keep en eye on him and see if he gets better now without the foam mats.

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      June 30, 2011 | 5:08 am

      Hi Ericka – hard for me to say and I’m not a doctor. Your son’s eczema may not be related to these mats, but it’s probably a good idea to have removed them.

      papalogic

  11. Ericka
    June 30, 2011 | 7:42 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to answer.

  12. Five Alive Friday | Checks and Spots
    July 7, 2011 | 3:48 pm

    […] I don’t mean to sound like a scare monger, but all parent’s of littlies should read this. […]

  13. […] Foam Floor Mats – worth reading http://www.papalogic.com/fail-foam-p…rance-belgium/ […]

  14. Concetta
    August 3, 2011 | 3:47 pm

    I purchased mats for my children’s playroom 3 years ago, after doing a good bit of research and quality comparisons via samples. I remember vividly, noting the difference in smell between the product I ended up purchasing and other samples. After reading this article, I was pretty sure I had covered this then, but wanted to be sure. I looked once again and here is what I found: http://www.wondermat.com/faqformamide.htm

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      August 4, 2011 | 12:27 am

      Hi Concetta – looks like you did some good research. Thanks for dropping by and for the comment.

      papa

  15. Tori Bishop
    Twitter: toricatchatori.com
    January 27, 2012 | 7:08 pm

    I just purchased the Tadpoles floormats, it says on the product “non-toxic and odor free. Our products pass the following tests: ASTM F963-03 Heavy Metal Content, Azo, PAH, EN 71 & Phthalates.” I dont know what any of that really means, but Ill probably return it anyway, better to be safe. Plus it is made in China, so leary of that anyway. Thanks for the heads up.

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      January 28, 2012 | 12:24 am

      Hi Tori, thanks for stopping by. I understand your concern. The French government completed their study last summer (I wrote a post about it here: ). Since you’ve already purchased these, the recommended course of action is to take them out of the packaging, unstack them and let the tile “air out” for a few days in a room not used by your child. If that particular set does indeed emanate some unhealthy fumes, they will dissipate over a few days. Of course, if you still have the receipt, you can always return them. Hope this helps.

  16. Phryne
    October 17, 2012 | 9:03 pm

    I’ve had these colorful mats in both my kids room & if has been over a year.
    They are 8 &6 and love to play on the floor on these.
    What effect has this had on them. There was a smell when removing from the packaging that last for a week or two.
    I’m assuming that these are also harmful to pets.
    The family cats love to play and sleep on these mats.
    I will be removing these from my kids rooms

    Thank you & I will share this with everyone I know who has children and are thinking of purchasing or all ready have them.

    • papa
      Twitter: papalogic
      October 18, 2012 | 12:52 am

      Hi Phryne – thanks for your comment. Since you purchased these mats over a year ago, the unhealthy fumes have dissipated by now. If you haven’t already done so, please see my follow-up post about the test results of the French government study:.

  17. Gail
    November 9, 2012 | 6:13 am

    I bought princess disney ones from walmart for my baby girl wondering if these to are dangerous i have washed them off with hot water before as the puppy peed on them …

  18. […] This material is toxic and has been banned in some of the european countries and it has potential cancer risks. (http://www.papalogic.com/fail-foam-puzzle-floor-mats-pulled-from-the-market-in-france-belgium/) […]

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