New Report Finds Upward Trend in Toxic-Free Children's Car Seats

Five major companies now offer toxic flame retardant-free car seats including Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, and UPPAbaby. Total of 16 car seat models are available without added harmful chemicals, while still meeting federal flammability standards.

Ann Arbor, MI—The Ecology Center today published a new report that finds an upward trend in toxic-free children’s car seats available for purchase between 2016 to 2019. In a three-year span, five major companies have released car seats that meet federal flammability standards without hazardous flame retardant chemicals. These companies include Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, and UPPAbaby. Although not a single toxic-free children’s car seat was available in 2016, the study finds that today there are 16 toxic flame retardant-free car seat models available for purchase. The report is based on a combination of Ecology Center independent testing and a comprehensive review of manufacturer claims.

Exposures to toxic flame retardants have been associated with an array of harmful health impacts. “Car seats with added flame retardants put babies and young children in close contact with chemical additives, some of which are known to be carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and developmental toxicants,” explains Gillian Miller, Senior Scientist at the Ecology Center. “Babies are especially vulnerable to chemical-laden dust from products like car seats since their systems are still developing.”

“This new list of products proves that flame retardant-free car seats are now the gold standard and best practice,” stated Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center.  “Manufacturers who continue to produce seats with toxic flame retardants are going to be seen as dinosaurs.” 

The Ecology Center’s car seat testing focuses on flame retardants (FRs), which continue to be used despite significant health concerns. Children’s car seats have to comply with the flammability standards meant to apply to vehicle interiors, not children’s products. Federal regulators have not been able to show a meaningful safety benefit from requiring compliance with this standard. Automakers and the car seat industry often, but not always, meet these standards by using chemical flame retardants. These 5 companies have developed children’s car seats that meet flammability standards through material and design choices; not with added chemicals.

“It is essential that parents put their kids in properly installed car seats, which provide vital crash protection, regardless of chemical hazard,” said Melissa Cooper Sargent, green living resources director at the Ecology Center.  “However, there are now many choices on the market, so parents can choose a healthier car seat. We look forward to car seat companies launching FR-free options in all products, including lower-cost options.”  

The Ecology Center is also calling on Graco and Evenflo to join the ranks of companies offering FR-free car seats. In 2017, over 42,000 people signed petitions calling on car seat manufacturers to "Get toxic chemicals out of children’s car seats." Five companies responded, but industry giants, Graco and Evenflo, have not yet introduced any FR-free seats.

Highlights of the report:

  • Through material and design choices, Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, and UPPAbaby have developed children’s car seats that meet flammability standards without the use of added chemicals. 
  • Manufacturers are using a range of approaches to achieve FR-free seats, including using fiber blends with wool, which is naturally fire retardant, and changing the weave patterns in the fabric so that it’s denser with less air.
  • We applaud the strategy of applying design innovation rather than swapping out a chemical with known hazards for another chemical with unknown hazards.
  • Two companies feature seats with removable, washable covers to help avoid the need for stain-repellent coatings such as toxic PFAS. Maxi-Cosi’s PureCosi Magellan 5-in-1’s seat cover is easily removable with velcro straps. Britax’s entire SafeWash line has removable seat covers.
  • Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, and Nuna each have two or more FR-free car seats available. 
  • A total of sixteen FR-free seats are now on the market. These include seats for every age and stage of growth.

This new report reminds parents that car seats are critical safety devices and that parents should ALWAYS properly install and use a car seat for babies and children regardless of its chemical composition.

Published on December 12, 2019