There’s no way around it. When babies and young children are riding in a car, they must be secured in a car seat. Unfortunately, this safety protection comes with toxic chemical exposure.
Though we all want our children to be in properly installed car seats for vital crash protection, we also want those seats to be free from toxicity.
There’s a new study on toxic chemicals in children’s car seats. This is the sixth study of its kind since 2006. Leading environmental scientists at the Ecology Center said that this year’s findings were an improvement from previous years, however there are still toxic chemicals found in the textile fabric of car seats.
This year’s study focuses particularly on flame retardants (FRs), which continue to be used despite there being no data showing they provide a fire safety benefit to children. Rather, they put babies and young children in close contact with chemical additives known to be carcinogens, hormone disruptors and developmental toxicants.
Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure to chemicals, since their systems are still developing. They often spend quite a bit of time sitting or sleeping in car seats, either in the car or when taken out of the car.
Fifteen infant and toddler car seats purchased in 2016 were tested, including two from the United Kingdom, by the following manufacturers: BabyTrend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Cosco, Diono, Evenflo, Graco, Joie, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, Orbit, Recaro, and Safety 1st; and a 2017-model car seat from UPPAbaby. A database with full results and ranking of the 2016 tested seats, as well as previous years, is available at www.HealthyStuff.org.
Aside from the UPPAbaby car seat, fire retardants were found in all of the car seats that were tested. Of those the Britax and Maxi-Cosi were ranked the healthiest as they did not contain any brominated flame retardants (BFR’s)
Most car seats still contain brominated flame retardants (BRF’s). This is concerning as brominated chemicals are typically persistent, continue to accumulate and are often toxic. Alternatives to BFR’s have not been tested for toxicity. Though some manufacturers have stopped using some flame retardants with know hazards, the healthy effects of many of the substitutes are unknown.
Organic car seat covers might help, if they are truly made of non-toxic materials, but they are not a complete answer. Fabric covers will not completely block toxicity. But an organic, non-toxic cover will at least put some healthy padding between the chemicals and your baby.
The good news is that the first-ever flame retardant-free car seat is coming in the Spring of 2017 (March), produced by UPPAbaby. The “Henry”, a new infant car seat in their “Mesa” line, leaves out chemical fire retardants in favor of a wool blend to meet regulations and flammability standards.
Vital crash protection and free from toxicity!