Yesterday, Belgium announced a new ban on foam puzzle mats, due to the presence of formamides, a type of chemical used to soften the foam for the mats. These chemicals are byproducts of the manufacturing process and residues can be left behind on the foam.
For a country to immediately outlaw the sale of a product indicates a fairly serious level of concern. Further evidence: There will be a 20,000 Euro fine for any retailer found selling them. But there’s no information yet about updated safety standards and which foam playmats might be safe (they don’t all contain these chemicals).
Parents on this side of the world are understandably concerned. The two brands of foam playmats we carry are both very popular. I’ve been tracking this issue with both manufacturers today, and here’s what I know.
According to a post on their Facebook page today, their Playspot has been tested specifically for formamides and received the lowest possible score, at less than 2 millionths of a gram per cubic meter. This is the minimum measurable result using today’s testing technology, so essentially it’s an undetectable amount of formamides, confirming that those chemicals are not used in the manufacturing process. Sigh of relief.
When I spoke to them, they were waiting to get a full testing report to share with parents who have concerns. The woman on the phone assured me that their playmats have passed all necessary safety standards in the US and Europe, which sounds good, but it’s not really the point here. If formamides were not on anyone’s radar (sort of like BPA up until a couple of years ago), they wouldn’t necessarily be a factor in the published safety standards. As soon as I get their report, I’ll post an update.
I received from Edushape copies of their ASTM testing report (which is basically irrelevant, since the ASTM is concerned about lead, not formamides), as well as a scan of a test that was specifically looking for formamides (much more helpful). That test did not detect any formamides in the Edushape playmats. The limit of quantification on those test results was 5mg/kg.