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Your Child's Car Seat May Contain Hazardous Chemicals


Your child’s car seat may protect him or her in the event of an accident, but does it contain dangerous chemicals such as flame retardants and heavy metals that are hazardous to health? A test conducted by the Ecology Center in Michigan found toxic substances in 60% of children’s car seats, but there are still many seats that don’t pose a risk.

Parents should definitely still use car seats

The results of this new study from Ecology Center is not the first time it has investigated the safety of car seats. In 2008 it sampled 131 car seats, and in 2009, the sample size was 58. On both occasions, hazardous substances were identified. For example, in 2009, more than half (58%) of the car seats tested contained one or more toxins, including PVC (polyvinyl chloride), brominated flame retardants, and heavy metals.

The new study examined more than 150 car seats and 22 brands, model year 2011, from retails stores in Michigan. Brands included in the study were Alpha Sport, Baby Trend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Combi, Compass, Dorel Juvenile Group (Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Maxi-Cosi, Safety First), Evenflo, Fisher Price, Graco, Harmony Juvenile, Orbit Baby, Peg Perego, Recaro, Sunshine Kids, Teutonia, and The First Years.

Investigators tested for chlorine (which indicates the presence of PVC and plasticizers such as phthalates), lead and other heavy metals (antimony, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel, tin), arsenic, bromine (brominated flame retardants), and allergens. These agents have been associated with birth defects, infertility, behavior problems, thyroid disorders, learning disabilities, liver toxicity, cancer, allergies, asthma, and other health issues.

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Infants and babies are especially vulnerable to even small amounts of toxins. As car seats sit in the sun and are exposed to heat and sunlight, the chemicals break down faster, which can increase their toxicity. The more young children are in the car seats, the greater their exposure.

Overall, 60 percent of the car seats evaluated contained at least one of the hazardous chemicals for which the investigators tested. The good news is that this is an improvement over previous years. For example, the average number of toxins found in each seat improved from 1.5 in 2009 to 0.9 in 2011, and the percentage of car seats with brominated flame retardants dropped from 63 percent in 2009 to 44 percent in 2011.

The other good news is that despite these findings, 40 percent of car seats contain virtually no toxic substances, and so parents still have a wide variety from which to choose. Worries about hazardous chemicals in some car seats is no excuse to avoid using these safety devices. As Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center, told the press, the use of car seats is “absolutely essential.”

Car seats that were ranked the most hazardous included Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black and Graco SnugRide 30 in Asprey; Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set and Britax Marathon in Platinum; and Recaro ProBooster in Blue Opal and Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Mist. A complete list of car seat rankings from 2008, 2009, and 2011 can be seen on the HealthyStuff.org website.

HealthyStuff.org website

Image credit: Morguefile