The latest research on toxic chemicals in children’s car seats was released (June 2015) by the nonprofit Ecology Center at www.HealthyStuff.org. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of seats tested contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants and over half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are hazardous as well.
The study finds that the flame retardant chemicals and alternatives used by companies are poorly regulated, putting consumers at risk, and questions the fire safety benefit of using these chemicals. Top rated companies in the study, Britax and Clek, have been proactively implementing policies to reduce hazards in their products while still meeting all safety standards. The poorest performing company was Graco.
Fifteen 2014-model car seats were tested for specific flame retardant chemicals by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The seats were also tested for bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants), chlorine (indicating the presence of chlorinated flame retardants when detected in a certain range of concentration), lead, and other heavy metals. These substances have been linked to thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes and cancer. Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the release of these chemicals from products into the vehicle environment.
Many children spend hours in a car every week, or even every day, potentially exposing them to harmful flame retardants. Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure, since their bodily systems are still developing and they spend many hours in their car seats.
“Car seats save lives. It’s absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving, regardless of the rating a particular seat received at HealthyStuff.org,” said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s Research Director. “However, our research shows that some car seats contain more harmful chemicals than others. The best rated companies in our study, Britax and Clek, have been making great strides to produce healthier products.”
The study is the fifth in a series of studies identifying poorly regulated chemical hazards in car seats since 2006. HealthyStuff.org has tested 377 car seats in the last nine years. Added flame retardant chemicals are not bound to the car seat materials and thus are released over time. Infants, toddlers and children can be exposed through inhalation, ingestion and dermal (skin) absorption of these chemicals.
“This study reminds us that the lack regulation of chemicals in vehicles and vehicle components, like children’s car seats, has resulted in vehicle interiors having some of the highest levels of hazardous chemicals including flame retardants,” said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. “Yet in the face of increased consumer vigilance and activism, industry has responded by trying to exempt itself from aspects of federal regulation on chemicals.” (Press release)
Check the list of car seats studied
More on car seats from the Ecology Center and HealthyStuff.org below: