Baby On Board and So Are Flame Retardants

HealthyStuff.org, a program of the Ecology Center, released their 2015 Car Seat Study once again reporting that the majority of tested car seats contain potentially toxic chemicals, particularly flame retardants.

HealthyStuff.org’s data shows that most car seats contain chemicals associated with a range of health risks like endocrine disruption, cognitive impairments and cancer. These chemicals of concern include flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalate plasticizers, and flame retardants. Typically, flame retardants are not bound to the car seat materials and thus the chemicals are released over time. As flame retardants are released, infants, toddlers and children can be exposed through inhalation, ingestion and absorption of these chemicals. The potentially harmful effects of flame retardants pose a particular threat to children.  Children are especially vulnerable because their systems are developing and because pound for pound, they eat, drink, and breathe about 2.5 times more than adults.

“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. 

For this Report, HealthyStuff.org tested fifteen car seat models representing twelve brands, all manufactured in 2014, for potentially hazardous chemicals. HealthyStuff.org focused on the components of the seats likely to contain flame-retardant chemicals: polyurethane foam, expanded polystyrene or expanded polypropylene foam, and polyester textiles. Almost every car seat tested contained one or more known flame retardant chemicals.

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.

Car seats keep children safe and save lives. Let’s encourage car seat makers to also improve the chemical safety of car seats as well.

To read more about the study and to view the full methodology, results, and rankings, visit www.HealthyStuff.org.

Listen to Gillian Miller, Ecology Center Staff Scientist, discuss the report on Michigan Radio.