Car Seats and Flame Retardants

Flame retardants are chemicals I’m always on the lookout for.  These chemicals are often applied in combinations and they are added to materials (all various kinds) during manufacturing to reduce the material catching on fire or slowing down the combustion process. When I was researching for my article on greener life jackets I assumed that the US and Canadian governments are the ones mandating flame retardants be added to products. tested over 150 children’s car seats and over half (60%) tested positive for brominated flame retardants, PVC, and/or heavy metals.  Brominated flame retardants are particularly scary because of how persistent they are in the environment (they don’t break down) and their accumulation inside the food chain and human bodies. With the sensitive developing systems of babies in car seats and for the length of time some are in their seats, this research one by is getting a lot of attention.

After learning about greener product foam (GAIA foam) rather than PVC based foam I asked 11 of the top car seat manufacturers if they had considered an ‘all natural’ car seat. If you think about it, new parents invest hundreds of dollars in organic mattresses and bedding all to avoid flame retardants, PVC, and other chemicals. Why not give them the option with car seats? A few of these companies got back to me, but not with any encouraging information. I’m mean how hard is it to replace toxic foam inserts with wool and ensure the materials are organic and lead free for the plastic buckles? We are already expecting to get charged through the nose for an option like this…it’s okay.  Go ahead.  Some of us will pay for it.

As quoted from the article summary, in the 2011 testing, car seats containing brominated flame retardants declined by 18% but some companies continue to use more potentially hazardous brominated flame retardants compared to their last tests in 2009. Hmm and three of these are Baby Trend, Recaro, and Britax. Makes me happy I never used the Baby Trend play pen I received for my first son. Think about products that are padded.  Obviously babies need padded products to ensure safety, but before purchasing you need to ask and research how if the company is/isn’t using flame retardants. We are talking about play pens, highchairs, play mats, car seats, mattresses, swings, etc.

There are better car seats and worse car seats when researching chemical exposure. These brands are listed here from the testing.  The top three for each include:

Worst 2011 Car Seats:

Infant Seat: Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black & Graco SnugRide 30 in Asprey
Convertible Seat: Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set & Britax Marathon in Platinum
Booster Seat: Recaro Pro Booster in Blue Opal & Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Misty

Best 2011 Car Seats:

Infant Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 in Limonata, Graco Snugride 35 in Laguna Bay & Combi Shuttle 33 in Cranberry Noche
Convertible Carseat: Graco Comfort Sport in Caleo, Graco MyRide 65 in Chandler and Streamer, Safety 1st OnSide Air in Clearwater, and Graco Nautilus Elite 3-in-1 in Gabe
Booster Seat: Graco Turbo Booster in Anders

Yes, reports like these make all parents want to throw up our hands and trash items like this, BUT remember these are car seats we are talking about. They are important and need to be used no matter what the rating is from And, this report was probably done to raise awareness for people in the market for new car seats when expecting babies. I have 3 booster seats in my van right now that are used everyday.  They are not 2011 models so it might be hard to figure out what level of flame retardant exposure they have.  But they will stay planted firmly in my van because when I purchase items like this I already have an awareness that these products contain this crap. I know because I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for them and when you are dealing with foam and cheap plastic…you will probably find flame retardants and PVC. Especially if these products were made several years ago. I hope the results from has a trickle effect in two areas of consumerism: 1) the companies listed using high amounts of chemicals will experience some significant loss of sales 2) will get parents asking questions. Only when a company has heard the same complaint and the same questions from thousands of parents will they do something to change their manufacturing protocols. Remember that flame retardants are added to materials when they are manufactured. If our governments are mandating that flame retardants be added, then I want the big companies giving me some alternatives than meet flame retardant testing without chemicals (wool, mineral based flame retardants, etc.). If the government is not mandating that flame retardant chemicals be added to these products…give parents the option of buying products that haven’t been coated or sprayed in flame retardant chemicals.


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