Everyone needs an infant car seat when they have a baby. It’s part of the law. But when it comes to babies and young children, harmful chemicals are more potent and far more dangerous. So who’s looking out to make sure that harmful chemicals, like fire retardants, are not inside car seats off-gassing dangerous ingredients into their lungs? The Ecology Center just released a report evaluating car seats for fire retardant use and this list should be in the hands of every new parent. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like must-have items for a nontoxic baby registry, things you can do to reduce toxic flame retardant exposure inside the home, the best nontoxic furniture and mattresses around children, now join us as we go over The Ecology Center report on fire retardants and car seats.
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Table of Contents
Why Fire Retardants are Dangerous Inside Car Seats
The idea that fire retardants are bad for infant car seats goes against common sense. Isn’t fire bad and you want something that discourages the spread of fire? Of course, unless the chemicals you use are more problematic to human health than they are useful. And when it comes to fire retardants, even firemen are dissuading their use because of toxicity. When fire retardants burn, it can be incredibly toxic to them leading to industrywide cancer.
Flame retardants are especially problematic inside car seats because they are not strongly bound to the foams and fabrics and can migrate out of the car seat and build up in dust inside the car. Children and adults are then exposed by breathing and ingesting dust that is covered with fire retardants. Over the past decade, most companies have abandoned fire retardants like PBDEs and chlorinated tris based on it’s health concerns. However, most brands have replaced them with substitute chemicals that are also problematic.
So why are so many brands using fire retardants inside their car seats? Well, today it’s all about laziness. They are not redesigning the car seats to pass the flammability requirements mandated by law and instead are relying on dangerous chemicals instead. In the early 1970s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandated that children’s car seats pass flammability requirements. That became a huge boom to the fire retardant industry even though the health effects of fire retardants have been well established through research. The good car seats are ones that have redesigned the style to still pass all the requirements without exposing your child to dangerous fire retardants. And these are the brands we believe you should be purchasing instead to protect your children.
Health Problems Linked With Fire Retardants
Flame retardants are linked to numerous health problems. A handful of flame retardant chemicals including polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and chlorinated flame retardants (CFR) have been linked to dangerous health effects like endocrine disruption, decreased fertility, immune suppression, altered sexual development, cancer, delayed brain development, lower IQ, and behavioral problems in humans. The dangers of flame retardants are so obvious that in November 2010, 145 scientists issued a joint statement documenting the health hazards of brominated and chlorinated flame retardant chemicals. Most fire retardants are bioaccumulative, which means they build up in our bodies and the environment, and that makes them difficult to detox out of the body. Any chemical that bioaccumulates should be avoided around children. One thing to note is phosphorus-based fire retardants are not as bioaccumulative, and thus eliminated by the body quicker. However, Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) is one example of a widespread phosphorus-based fire retardant that is eliminated from the body quicker but it’s also bioaccumulating inside breast tissue and exhibits hormonal and developmental toxicity.
Historically, the fire retardants used in children’s car seats included mutagens, hormone disruptors, and developmental toxins. But over the past decade, companies have abandoned them and have substituted to phosphorus-based fire retardants and brominated fire retardants. These include chemicals like triphenyl phosphate, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to metabolic syndrome. Independent scientists are very concerned about these replacements saying that not enough studies have been done to prove their safety and expose infants to. And the studies that have come out are already concerning.
The Ecology Center Report on Car Seats & Fire Retardants
Researchers from Indiana University conducted an analysis of over 300 components of 18 children’s car seats using HD-XRF and FTIR, then used mass spectrometry and published their work in scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. In total, they tested 36 fabric and foam samples from 18 different car seats sold in the United States, Canada, and China between January 2017 and February 2018. The brands evaluated were Baby Trend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Evenflo, Graco, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, Safety 1st and UPPAbaby. In addition, they also tested the seats for fabric treatments likely containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are linked to low sperm count, small penis size and thyroid conditions. The outcome was very concerning.
- 34 out of 36 car seats tested for high levels of dangerous flame retardants
- 83% of seat components studied still contain fire retardants that may be hazardous
- 4 samples contained decabromodiphenyl ethanes (DBDPEs), which has been linked to thyroid issues, oxidative stress and hormone imbalance.
- 3 out of 4 car seats contained polybrominated diphenyl ethers in low levels
- 9 of 18 seats had levels of fluorine at levels suggesting PFAS were intentionally added to the fabric
- Levels of fire retardants were quantitatively measured in many of the car seat samples and some had at least 4% by weight
- Sensitive mass spectrometric analyses also found a surprising variety of legacy fire retardants at trace levels. Several PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, phased out of production in the U.S. by 2013) were
measured in 75% of the samples at single-digit or sub-parts per million levels, including BDE-28, -47, -49, and others.
- Other brominated fire retardants were found at trace levels as well including hexabromobenzene and 2,3-dibromopropyl 2,4,6-tribromophenyl ether.
- Chlorinated tris, TDCIPP, was also measured in 20% of the samples at sub-ppm levels.
The List of Good & Bad Car Seat Brands to Purchase
It’s very concerning that children are exposed to such dangerous chemicals at such an early phase in their life when their hormones are so vulnerable. Here is the list of which brands are looking out for your family and which ones are ignoring the dangers behind fire retardants.
The Bad Guys to Avoid
These brands contain chemicals that are incredibly problematic to the health of newborns. They contain phosphorus-based flame retardants and bromide in at least two components. Highlighted & * means they contain fluorinated chemicals.
- Baby Trend – EZ Flex-LOC – Infant – Morning Mist*
- Chicco – KeyFit 30 – Infant – Regatta*
- Eddie Bauer – XRS 65 – Convertible – Viewpoint
- Evenflo – Nurture – Infant – Blake*
- Evenflo – SureRide DLX – Convertible – Paxton*
- Graco – Contender 65 – Convertible – Piedmont
- Graco – SnugRide Click Connect 30 – Infant – Kyte*
- Nuna – Pipa – Infant – Graphite*
The Better Brands to Still be Concerned About
These brands are better. They contain phosphorus-based flame retardants and bromide in at least one component. Highlighted & * means they contain fluorinated chemicals.
- Britax – Advocate ClickTight ARB – Convertible – Circa
- Britax – Roundabout G4.1 – Convertible – Luna*
- Clek – Foonf – Convertible – Thunder*
- Cosco – Scenera NEXT – Convertible – Moon Mist
- Maxi-Cosi – Micro 30 – Infant – Bright Rose*
- Safety 1st – Grow and Glow 3-in-1 – Convertible – Shadow
- UPPAbaby Mesa – Infant – Taylor
The Best Brands Keeping Baby Safe From Harmful Chemicals
These car seats do not contain flame retardants or fluorinated chemicals. In order to pass inspection for safety, they have redesigned the car seats to resist catching instead.
- Clek – Fllo – Convertible – Mammoth
- Nuna – Pipa Lite – Infant – Fog
- UPPAbaby – MESA – Infant – Jordan
Other Ways to Avoid Fire Retardants Inside Your Home
Unfortunately, it’s very likely there is also fire retardants attached to the dust inside your home. But have no fear, Mamavation is here with some additional tips and tricks. We’ve created some additional content to help you avoid dangerous fire retardant exposure around your family. Click on the links below for additional info and sign up for our FREE eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Up Indoor Air In Your Home.
- Our recommendations for fire retardant free furniture & mattresses
- Tips on cleaning the home to reduce your exposure
- The air purifier that saved my family–the Intellipure
And if you would like a FREE copy of our eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Up Indoor Air In Your Home, fill out the form below and we’ll send to you today.