Toxic Foam Play Mats and Puzzles (formamide, recalls, better choices)

playmat 1

A reader recently emailed me about finding safer baby playmats to cushion hard floors.  A few months back, I had another question about this from a different reader.  Since then I’ve been looking for better, safer, and greener options for babies to practice tummy time and kicking on a softer surface.

One reader commented that these foam mats and puzzles do not seem non-toxic, and I have noticed their strong smell before.  Add to that, they often come in vinyl packaging.  We know that vinyl (or PVC) contains all sorts of troubling chemicals, such as lead, phthalates, and other chemicals of concern.

There are many foam play mats and puzzles available (usually made in China), but recently, they have become a concern for many parents.  Belgium and France recalled foam play mats in 2010 because test results indicate unsafe levels of formamide.  What is this chemical?

According to the Deccan Herald:

“Formamide is toxic to the reproductive system and can pose harm to fetuses and infants. Exposure to the chemical can also cause eye, nose, throat and skin irritation.”

The blog Papa Logic explores the recalls history, the health risks of formamcide and concerns about all foam mats.

Our friends at SafBaby have done some fine investigative reporting about this situation.  They contacted several manufacturers to see if they would share their formamcide test results and the ingredients in their foam mats.  SafBaby shared the responses from companies, and the linked post includes a nice graphic with pictures of certain foam products.  Most companies who tested showed that they have none or little of this troubling chemical in their products.  This is helpful to you if you actually know the manufacturer of the foam play mat or puzzle you have.  Many of us do not.

I have to agree with SafBaby and Papa Logic here– these foam mats have no place in our homes.  Even if the foam mat you have shows no formamcide, does the company reveal what is in its product?  Usually not. That is “proprietary”.  Well.  If a company can’t tell us what is in a product, how do we know it is safe?  Too many times we are just told to simply believe a company when they tell us their products are safe (Remember BPA and Sigg bottles, anyone?).  It just gets too complicated when a company’s bottom line is involved.

That is why we need the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011!  Companies would have to prove a products safety BEFORE it goes on the market, so we don’t have to do this dance.  I would love not to have to write about these issues anymore.

safe playmat 1

What to do?

*Ditch the foam mats and puzzles.  I really don’t like to put things in the landfill.  What else can you do with them?  I struggle with the idea of passing these along as well, to folks who might not know about the safety concerns.  I do wish they were recyclable somehow.

*Find a better option.  Here is a great choice from our friends at Under the Nile. These are remnants from their organic cotton products.  They are machine washable too.  You can get them in varies sizes and have some safer cushioning for your little explorer.

*Here is another choice, handmade and beautiful, from Peppermint Pinwheels.  There are lots of sweet choices and adorable patterns here.  These are machine washable as well. The picture above is this sweet  super sized double padded playmat.

Do you know of any safer baby play mats?  Please post your ideas in the comments.  Thank you!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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