Commitments follow reports from Ecology Center's HealthyStuff.org
Britax and Orbit Baby, major manufacturers of children's products including car seats, have announced their commitment to eliminate chemical hazards in their products. Orbit Baby was the first to market children’s car seats free of hazardous flame retardants and PVC. On March 7, Britax reiterated their commitment to eliminate hazardous flame retardants that contain bromine or chlorine by the end of 2012.
"Orbit Baby and Britax prove that it is possible to comply with government fire-safety standards and make a product that does not cause harm to children’s health," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s research director and founder of HealthyStuff.org, which has tested hundreds of popular car seats for toxic chemicals. "We thank all of the parents who have expressed concern about toxic chemicals in children’s car seats, and these two companies for leading the way to safer products."
Orbit Baby and Britax are phasing out brominated and chlorinated flame retardants (BFRs & CFRs), which are added to plastics for fire resistance, and have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, and behavioral changes. Although fire retardants in foam are necessary to meet certain fire-safety standards, non-halogenated fire retardants are available, and many have a better safety profile.
Both companies are also phasing out chlorine, associated with the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is widely used in plastics and is of concern to the environment and public health during all phases of its life cycle. PVC contains chemicals called phthalates, which have been associated with decreased fertility, pre-term deliveries, and damage to the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood.
Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals and possibly increase their toxicity. 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.
Britax, which manufactured one of HealthyStuff.org’s most toxic carseats in 2011, sent an email to the Ecology Center yesterday stating the following: "BRITAX stands by its commitment to expand its specifications to focus on reducing and/or eliminating the usage of all chemicals containing bromine or chlorine to all components, not just those that are in close or direct contact with children. This new specification has several challenges, but we fully expect that all suppliers will be compliant by the end of 2012."
Likewise, a statement by Orbit says: "All Orbit Baby products comply with the government's requirements for flame retardancy without the use of toxic brominated and chlorinated chemicals, like PBBs and PBDEs....We go above and beyond to certify that there are no dangerous flame retardant chemicals in our fabrics." Orbit Baby certifies all of their seat fabrics to stringent third-party standards established under the Oeko-Tex® 100 Standard.
"Orbit Baby is clearly the industry leader in terms of chemical safety, having had healthier products on the market for over a year," stated Gearhart. "However, Britax’s new commitment takes this to whole new level, showing that safe and healthy seats can be produced on a large scale without hazardous flame retardants."
Overall, car seats are improving in terms of their toxicity levels. Since 2008, when the Ecology Center first started doing this research, average car seat rankings have improved by 64%.
"Car seats save lives. It’s absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving, regardless of the rating a particular seat receives at HealthyStuff.org," said Gearhart. "However, we are thrilled that parents will now have more choices that protect children in more ways than one."
EcoLink — March 2012 Ecolink
An online publication of the Ecology Center
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