The very seats parents strap their little ones into almost every day to keep them safe while inside a car may be hazardous in a way not previously expected. Recently, a new report found that many car seats may contain chemicals toxic to children, although, within the past decade, many manufacturers in the United States have made progress to remove some of the most dangerous chemicals used to produce the safety seats. Still, according to the study, a variety of car seat brands still use damaging chemicals to act as flame retardants — and unfortunately, those chemicals are linked to devastating developmental issues and can possibly even cause cancer.
According to the report, which was published by the nonprofit environmental group The Ecology Center, the researchers found hazardous flame retardants in all of the car seat models they tested from various brands. The brands tested included BabyTrend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Cosco, Diono, Evenflo, two models from Graco (one from the United Kingdom), Joie (a U.K. brand), Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, Orbit, Recaro, and Safety 1st.
The flame retardants were found in the fabrics of the car seats, which are known carcinogens that can disrupt the functioning of a child's hormones, cause developmental issues, and have the ability to cause cancer in childhood, according to the report.
None of car seats tested, however, contained lead or chlorinated tris, which are chemicals that have been widely used flame retardants in various everyday household products in the United States. But, as the report indicates, manufacturers stopped using them as they are very dangerous for young children because exposure to them can cause developmental delays, learning difficulties, and can cause cancer.
As some type of flame retardant was found in all 15 of the brands tests due to meeting federal flammability standards, the report found that brominated chemicals were still in most chemicals, except from the brands Maxi Cosi and Britax. It should also be noted that the brands Clek and Orbit used very small amounts of the chemicals for as warning labels or Velcro, but not in fabrics or foams.
While car seats produced by Britax and Maxi-Cosi were ranked as the healthiest, the researchers reported that first-ever flame retardant-free car seat will be hitting the market in spring 2017: The Mesa "Henry" car seat by UPPAbaby, which will be made of naturally fire-resistant wool instead of flame retardant chemicals.
"It is essential that parents put their kids in properly installed car seats, which provide vital crash protection, regardless of chemical hazard," Jeff Gearhart, Ecology Center research director, said in a press release. "However, there are some seats that are healthier than others in terms of toxic chemical content."
The researchers noted that passing federal flammability standards without chemical additives is more costly than using natural materials. But, as any parent knows, car seats are necessary and a child's safety is priceless, so hopefully federal regulations can be modified one day to eliminate this very concerning risk.