Are Foam Puzzle Mats the New BPA Bottles?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

The incredibly popular colorful foam puzzle mats that almost every parent I know owns (including myself) have just been banned in Belgium because of tests they say show levels of a cancer-causing chemical.

The rest of Europe is expected to follow suit within the next few years. Do we have a new BPA on our hands?

The offending chemical is in the foamamides that are used to soften the foam in the mats, but "are corrosive and can be deadly," according to the Belgian report. Children should not be exposed to them. So how worried should we be?

According to experts in Belgium, the dangerous chemicals can be absorbed through breathing or through the skin. And while ordinarily, I might dismiss this since Belgium is a small country and no one else is up on this, I'm still smarting from the whole BPA scare, which was in all of our baby bottles and has many adverse health effects. Europe was light years ahead of us on that.

So what does this mean?

In Belgium it means that anyone found selling these mats will be fined about $27,000 as of 2011, but an EU-wide ban is expected in the next few years. I, for one, am taking that pretty seriously.

Here is some information from the Bureau Veritas Group:

On 10 December 2010, Minister Paul Magnette, who is responsible for consumer production, ordered that foam puzzle mats be withdrawn from the market due to concern that they contain a dangerous substance. This withdrawal follows a series of controls on dangerous substances placed on toys made of EVA foam. These controls were necessary as these products have shown high levels of formamide (CAS 75-12-7), a substance classified as toxic for reproduction. A study performed by a consumer magazine in 2009 revealed that some products contained dangerous substances. This led to Belgian authorities to, on one hand, withdraw products from the market, and on the other hand, for professionals to further evaluate the safety of these products.

The foam puzzle mats are colorful and soft and easily washed, which make them very popular with parents around the globe. We have one in our basement that our children use when they are playing with their train table. Now I am wondering if I should toss it.

To be on the safe side, I think I will. If this is going to start gaining traction -- and I'm thinking it might -- holding on to a $40 foam puzzle mat isn't worth as much to me as the peace of mind.

Are you concerned?


Image via Amazon

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