EVA Foam Safety: Is Formamide Toxic in Puzzle Play Mats?
| Fact Checked By: Lamont Robbins
Published: November 11, 2019 | Updated: June 12, 2020
There’s been some recent talk about the safety of EVA foam in toys and foam floor tiles. People worry because puzzle mats and play mats may sometimes contain a chemical called formamide. Formamide gives foam mats their soft, squishy texture, but it’s also considered a carcinogen, and has been found to cause developmental harm at high enough levels.
For these reasons, France and Belgium banned EVA foam a few years ago. However, no other countries have followed this trend, and a few countries have conducted studies on formamide and EVA foam safety. These studies found no dangerous amounts of formamide in consumer products.
Naturally, parents and guardians still want to be sure the foam floor tiles in the playroom are safe for their children. Your concern for foam flooring safety is important to us, and that’s why we test all of our foam products to make sure they don’t contain any formamide.
But what if you already have EVA foam tiles, and you aren’t sure if they have formamide or not? Don’t throw them out just yet. In this article, we’re going to gather all the facts about EVA foam safety and the levels of formamide in foam tiles.
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What is EVA Foam?
EVA stands for ethylene-vinyl acetate, which is a soft and flexible plastic that’s also very strong. EVA is often used as a safe alternative to PVC. When combined with heat, pressure, and other plastics, EVA becomes closed cell EVA foam.
This is where the safety concerns begin. Some manufacturers will use formamide as a part of this process, while others do not.
EVA foam is an incredibly versatile substance, which is why you can find it almost everywhere. It’s in soft flooring, life jackets, the padding inside boxing gloves, exercise mats, and more. You might be coming into contact with EVA foam on a pretty regular basis, and some of that material could have been manufactured with formamide.
But what does that really mean for you and your family? It means it’s time to learn more about formamide.
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What is Formamide?
Formamide is a colorless, odorless liquid with the chemical formula CH3NO. Manufacturers sometimes use this chemical compound when making EVA foam. The amount of formamide used in a product depends on how soft the foam needs to be.
You should definitely avoid formamide in its liquid form, since it has corrosive properties. However, liquid formamide evaporates in the manufacturing process. The small amount that is left behind in a foam product slowly outgasses over time.
Several government agencies conducted studies on formamide to determine if it poses a danger as it is found in flooring. Their studies determined that exposure to formamide was safe in the levels they tested.
The government of Canada “conducted a science-based evaluation of formamide, called a screening assessment,” and this is what they found:
“The Government of Canada has concluded that formamide is not harmful to human health at current levels of exposure. Based on the conclusion of the final screening assessment, no further action will be taken on formamide.” – Canada Health and Product Safety
The Difference Between Formamide and Formaldehyde
People frequently confuse formamide and formaldehyde with each other, even though they’re distinct chemicals, simply because their names are similar. Formaldehyde in flooring has been in the news recently, and that’s probably why questions about formamide are coming up again: they just sound so alike. Let’s clear up that confusion now, so you can continue your safety research with a strong knowledge base.
There’s one main fact you need to know about formamide and formaldehyde when it comes to flooring. Formaldehyde isn’t used in foam flooring, but formamide can be a component in foam flooring.
Manufacturers typically use formaldehyde in glues for manufactured wood products like cabinets and laminate flooring. A few years ago, the CDC found that the formaldehyde levels in some laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators manufactured between 2012 and 2014 could cause irritation and breathing problems.
So unlike formamide, studies have found formaldehyde to pose a safety risk in flooring when the levels are high enough. The good news is this: you won’t find formaldehyde in any of our foam flooring products.
Not all laminate flooring releases formaldehyde, and studies show that the level released by flooring decreases over time until it reaches normal levels found in the home. However, if you have laminate flooring in your home that was made in China between 2012 and 2014 and bought from Lumber Liquidators, the CDC recommends a few steps to mitigate potential effects.
You should “open windows for a few minutes every few days to let in fresh air,” and “install and use exhaust fans as much as possible” to reduce formaldehyde already in the home. When purchasing new flooring, you can also check to make sure it was made without urea-formaldehyde (UF) glues.
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Is EVA Foam Safe for Babies and Children?
EVA foam products are tested rigorously to ensure safety for all consumers, especially children and babies. In fact, our foam flooring undergoes the most thorough testing of any of our flooring. That’s because consumer safety groups categorize EVA foam materials like play mats and tiles as toys.
As a result, our foam flooring must pass the same tests as every toy your child plays with. That’s why we can confirm to you that 100% of our foam products are formamide and formaldehyde free, and they are safe for children.
You don’t have to just take our word for it. The Australian government conducted their own study, specifically focusing on play mats and their potential safety risk to children. They tested 16 different EVA foam products, half of which had no measurable amount of formamide. The other 8 EVA foam samples had very small amounts of formamide.
They determined that the formamide in foam play mats poses no risk to children:
“Based on the actual testing, it was concluded that a child would need to mouth for 20 minutes, or ingest, at least 4.17 square metres of typical foam play mat every day over their entire life to approach a level of exposure to formamide which might raise health concerns.” – Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC)
Where to Buy Non Toxic Play Mats
Even though studies have confirmed EVA foam safety whether or not it contains formamide, some people might want to buy formamide-free play mats as an added precaution. The best way to find out if a product has formamide is to check the packaging. Companies will often specifically state if their product is formamide-free right there on the label.
If you can’t find any helpful information on the packaging, feel free to contact the company, and they will be happy to help with your questions. They can tell you what they test for and whether their product contains any materials that concern you. Companies that don’t want to offer this information likely don’t deserve your business.
A good place to start your shopping is with our wide selection of foam floor tiles. All of our kids play mats, puzzle mats, and Alphabet tiles are 100% formamide free. You can also check the spec sheets for each product to see all the other tests we conduct to ensure we’re providing safe, high-quality products to our customers.