I like to think I’m getting pretty good at analyzing toys and kids products, but it can be such challenge to catch the hidden hazards. Forget needing an advanced degree to understand the chemical components — sometimes it’s hard to remember even the basics.
I recently purchased an EnviroKid Nap Mat for Sweet William. EnviroKid makes bean bag chairs and nap mats that are free of PVC and phthalates. They are filled with olefin foam beads instead of styrene (styrene is a known human neurotoxin and carcinogen). I was pretty enthusiastic when I submitted my order.
William flopped around on the mat for a couple of weeks before I got around to tearing off the “Under Penalty of Law” tag. That’s where I found the small print indicating the mat’s compliance with California’s Technical Bulletin 117 flammability requirements. Turns out the olefin beads are treated with halogenated flame retardants — the really bad stuff.
I spoke to Josh Dame of EnviroKid about the problems with halogenated flame retardants, which he said the company is required to use. Taking into consideration the hazards of flame retardants, he explained that EnviroKid seals its products to prevent a child from releasing (and ingesting) the beads. It’s better than a zippered, refillable bean bag, but not enough to make me feel comfortable. As the mat breaks down from use and age, it’s likely that flame retardants will escape. Plus, there’s no environmentally safe way to dispose of materials treated with halogenated flame retardants.
Dame graciously offered me a full refund and the promise that he’ll contact me when the company comes up with a better alternative for dealing with flammability requirements. I hope it does. In the meantime, as a result of my inquiry, Envirokid’s FAQ now includes this statement:
Are flame retardants used in EnviroKid™ products?
The outer covering material that your child would be directly exposed to contains no flame retardants. However, the olefin foam beads contain a halogen flame retardant in order to pass CAL 117 requirements.