France Publishes New Requirements for Foam Toy Puzzle Mats

23 August 2011

New requirements for foam toy “puzzle mats” were published in France’s Official Journal of the French Republic (OJFR) on July 22, 2011, following the results of a study conducted by the French Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labor (ANSES) which concluded that formamide, (CAS# 75-12-7), which is used to make the puzzle mats, poses a health risk to young children.

A new French Arrêté bans the importation or sale of foam puzzle mats until July 20, 2012, unless the manufacturer, importer or distributor can demonstrate compliance with any one of three conditions:

1. “Puzzle mat” does not contain formamide greater than 2 mg/kg (ppm) (extraction method using acetone is described in part A of Arrêté annex) total; or

2. “Puzzle mat” does not emit more than 20 µg of formamide per cubic meter of air after 28 days (test chamber method according to ISO 16000-6 (1) and EN ISO 16000-9 (2) with specific test parameters given in part B of Arrêté annex); or

3. “Puzzle mat” does not emit more than 40 µg of formamide per cubic meter of air after 7 days (test chamber method according to ISO 16000-6 and EN ISO 16000-9 with specific test parameters given in part B of Arrêté annex).

Typically, formamide may be present in foam mats as a plasticizer for ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), as a decomposition product of blowing agents used in the manufacture of foam products; or as a residual solvent from EVA resin manufacture. ANSES determined that in the case of puzzle mats, children can inhale the chemical emitted by the mats into the air.

From December 2010 to July 15, 2011, there was a temporary ban on the sale or importation of foam puzzle mats in France. During that time, French authorities found some puzzle mats on the European market that they classified as toxic due to high levels of formamide, and requested that a study be conducted by ANSES. The full ANSES report can be viewed online (in French only).

ANSES recommended that in order to remove formamide from foam toys such as puzzle mats as well as other products it would be necessary to find the precise effect of formamide on health, to identify formamide’s uses, and to find substitute substances.

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