Flame retardants still used in many car seats, study finds

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The first flame retardant-free car seat will be available next year

A new study finds that toxic flame retardants are still used in many car seats sold in the U.S., but improvements have been made since 2014. While manufacturers have removed some of the worst offenders, flame retardants were found in all 15 car seats tested and brominated flame retardants were found in 13 out of 15.

Researchers from The Ecology Center say there is no data showing that flame retardants provide a fire safety benefit to children. In fact, the chemicals used to act as flame retardants are known to cause cancer, disrupt hormone functioning, and harm child development.

Infants and children are most vulnerable to the effects of chemical-laden dust from car seats since their systems are still developing, the authors said.

"It is essential that parents put their kids in properly installed car seats, which provide vital crash protection, regardless of chemical hazard," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's Research Director in a press release. "However, there are some seats that are healthier than others in terms of toxic chemical content."


For the first time since testing started a decade ago, no lead or chlorinated tris was detected in any of the car seats tested. The brands tested include BabyTrend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Cosco, Diono, Evenflo, Joie, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, Orbit, Recaro, Safety 1st, and two Graco models. Britax and Maxi-Cosi ranked as the healthiest.

The report noted that the first-ever flame retardant-free car seat will be hitting the market in spring 2017. The “Henry” car seat by UPPAbaby will be made of naturally fire-resistant wool instead of flame retardants.

"UPPAbaby has finally proved that it is possible to make a car seat that meets federal flammability requirements without adding toxic flame retardants," said Gearhart.

"We now challenge other companies to follow suit, especially those that make low-cost seats. Car seats are required by law for children in vehicles, and an affordable seat should not come with a chemical exposure cost,” he concluded.

Study author Gillian Z. Miller says parents can reduce their child’s exposure to chemicals found in car seat fabrics and foams by taking the following actions: minimizing time spent in a car seat, washing your and your child’s hands often, and vacuuming car seats (as well as your car) frequently.

A full list of the the 392 car seats tested by the Ecology Center in the past decade is available at www.HealthyStuff.org.

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