Are Car Seats Made Of Toxic Chemicals?

Bromine, chlorine, and lead may be just a few of the chemicals in your child’s car seat, according to a recent study from the Ecology Center. The study tested 62 car seats sold at Babies “R” Us and Target, and found that over 30% contained significant levels of toxic chemicals that could adversely affect a child’s development; 60% contained brominated flame retardant, which can cause thyroid problems and memory impairment.

Graco, maker of TurboBooster car seats, said they were “examining the study’s methodology and findings.” Britax, whose Marathon Platinum seat received one of the worst scores, “did not return calls.”

The results of the study are available at HealthyCar.org. Parents concerned for their child’s safety should remember this helpful rhyme from the director of the Ecology Center: “keep the window ajar when travelling in the car.” — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Chemicals used on car seats ‘toxic’ to children, study warns [CBC via Freakonomics]
The Consumer Guide To Toxic Chemicals In Cars [Healthy Car]
(Photo: jgh_photo)

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  1. erica.blog says:

    Unfortunately, the alternative is to buckle the kid on a regular car seat, which is less safe (and the regular car seat probably has as much crap in it as the baby car seat does)…

    I found it interesting that there was not necessarily any consistency in which companies had safer seats — a seat from one maker might be 0.2, while another seat from the same maker would be 5.0.

  2. Sockatume says:

    I’m a bit unsure of their methodology. They’ve taken the concentrations of these materials in the solids of the car, and then applied a weighting according to how well it’ll release these materials into the atmosphere based on their own judgement. Then they use some other weighing factors to figure out the whole “safeness” of the vehicle. They’ve even used elements as proxies for specific compounds which is eyebrow-raisingly dubious. Their results are fine for comparing one vehicle to another, but their red-to-green scale makes it seem like things with low ratings are “dangerous” and things with high ratings are “safe”. I’m not sure they can really say that. The reds might still be safe, and the greens might still be dangerous.

    I’d rather they’d cut out the middle-man and analysed the atmosphere in the car directly for the compounds of interest. That way we’d have some absolute figures which could be compared to things like OSHA recommendations for exposure. Of course it’s understandable that they didn’t: it would almost certainly require novel spectroscopic techniques. Maybe they could rope a local university into a research project on the subject, somewhere that’s bought a DART-MS and wants to justify the expense.

    I’ve got to applaud their efforts, though, this was quite an undertaking and like I say it’s still a sound relative guide.

  3. timmus says:

    Britax, whose Marthon Platinum seat received one of the worst scores, “did not return calls.”

    Britax? This pisses me off as our 3-year old has been using a Britax seat since he was a baby. You’d better return your calls, Britax, or I won’t be buying from you again.

  4. FLConsumer says:

    Considering car interiors in Florida can get hotter than 160F, I’d definitely be worried about things like this.

    Actually, this is just a symptom of a mucher larger problem. There’s measurable amounts of Teflon in just about every American’s blood (even kids), so who knows what other chemicals end up making it into our bodies…and how these chemicals interact with each other once they’ve entered the body. This is definitely one area where we need more scientific research.

  5. Sudonum says:

    @FLConsumer:
    Teflon in our blood??? Kool, does it keep the plaque from sticking to my arteries????

  6. ColoradoShark says:

    @: Go check out Freakonomics. The authors have questioned whether car seats/booster seats are actually better than just belting into a regular seatbelt. The reaction they get seems to be they are blaspheming and no one want to do the testing. (The testing is with crash dummies, not people.)

  7. synergy says:

    @ColoradoShark: I was wondering the same just a few days ago when we were choosing whose car to take out to lunch and one knocked herself out of the race because she has two baby carseats in the back, pretty much making the backseat useless for anyone else. When I was growing up I don’t think I really ever heard about ejected infants and I don’t recall most people even using car seats.

  8. Of COURSE they are. Anything made of plastic or involving standard upholstery/padding is chock full o’ nasty VOC-off-gassing chemicals that’ll kill ya. As is anything that doesn’t go up in flames immediately.

    But at a certain point you’ve got to say, “Hm, would I rather have baby exposed to asbestos or exposed to a seat that’ll go up in flames in seconds?”

    @ColoradoShark: And even if car seats ARE safer, the fact that they’re installed wrong NINETY PERCENT OF THE TIME, according to the manufacturers’ own statistics, suggests they’re an EXTREMELY poor safety product. Seat belts that were so difficult to use they were put on wrong 90% of the time would be a national scandal, particularly if children were involved.

    Some suggest, however, that car seat mfrs. put out those 90% stats and put on all those “how to install the seat” clinics at firehouses so that when they get sued for an infant death when the seat fails, they can put up the defense that “90% are installed wrong, so it must have been user error.” (And since that typically IS the defense, you gotta wonder.)

  9. FLConsumer says:
  10. Sudonum says:

    @FLConsumer:
    I wasn’t doubting you, just trying to find the silver lining.

  11. arirang says:

    So what is the moral of the story? That kids are safer lugged around on public transportation or in cabs on our laps?

    Good grief can’t anything be made so that’s it’s safe holistically?

  12. erica.blog says:

    @ColoradoShark et al: trust me as the mother of a toddler — the kid is safer in a car seat. Not necessarily because a car seat is inherently better than a plain seatbelt, but because she can’t unbuckle herself.

  13. Trackback says:

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