The trend for chemicals in car seats is going in the right direction. We have seen phase outs of some brominated and chlorinated FRs and an increase in the use of halogen-free FRs. This is the second consecutive study in which we haven't found any PBDEs (polybromintated diphenyl ethers, which are known endocrine disruptors) and the first year there were no chlorinated flame retardants, such as chlorinated tris (a known carcinogen).
However, the textile fabric of car seats is still flush with brominated flame retardants (BFRs). In fact 13 of the 15 seats (87%) contain BFRs. The Maxi Cosi and Britax seats did not contain any BFRs; the Clek and Orbit seats only contained them in the smaller components such as warning labels or Velcro, not in fabrics or foams. This is concerning, as brominated chemicals are typically persistent, bioaccumulative, and often toxic, in some cases carcinogenic.
Phosphorus-based, halogen-free FRs were detected in all 15 seats. Eliminating halogens is important, but even halogen-free FRs must be carefully studied for health hazards. Some of the phosphorus FRs found in 2016 seats may pose a lower hazard, but we found health-related data to be lacking. And one halogen-free FR, triphenyl phosphate, has known health concerns.
Encouraging news this year came from a manufacturer whose seat was not officially included in the 2016 study: UPPAbaby. The Mesa “Henry” seat will be available early in 2017 and is highly anticipated as the first known infant car seat to forego FR chemicals and rely on naturally fire-resistant wool to achieve flammability standards.