Tag Archives | brominated flame retardants

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. Healthystuff.org 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 Healthystuff.org 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 Healthystuff.org 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 Healthystuff.org 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 Healthystuff.org. 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 Healthystuff.org 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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Is Your Child’s Bed or Crib Toxic?

A disturbing subject and confusing topic for parents is the toxic sleep environment their children’s mattress or pillows might be creating. I’ve avoided writing this article for many months because I wanted to properly research and frankly, my head couldn’t take any more surprises. I regret procrastinating for so long because once you read this article, you’ll want to make changes.  After spending hours talking with Chelsea, the co-founder of Sleepy Sheep, I have valuable information that can help you determine, rectify, and shop for healthy alternatives if you want your beds to become a truly healthy place where your children, babies, and family can get a restful sleep.

If you are purchasing duvets, mattresses, pillows or simply checking labels on current products in your home, 3 main categories need to be looked at – especially with researching mattresses and pillows! Questions to ask include what materials are used in the production of the ‘outside’ of the product, ‘inside’ of the product and ‘treatment’ of the product – and I don’t mean asking it how they are feeling… <grin>  I mean if the product has been chemically treated.

Outside:

The slippery coating on the outside of a crib mattress could be PVC, otherwise known as vinyl. This coating will off-gas because phthalates and plasticizers have been added to the PVC to make it bendy.  Phthalates are problematic within your baby or child’s bed because they are toxic to human health, can cause reproductive complications (developmentally in boys and fertility in both genders), and cause life-long allergies or asthma problems that begin as babies.

Inside:

What is your mattress, duvet, or pillows filled with? A popular material inside all mattresses, including crib mattresses is polyurethane foam.  Don’t let another long ‘p’ word from the plastics world confuse you. Just think of polyurethane foam as plastic, made with petroleum that is highly flammable. I was having a hard time picturing this material and then I knew how to explain it to parents.  Most or you have received or purchased a Disney licensed foam chair or fold out couch. We’ve had a Pooh Bear chair for years and once had a Sesame Street foldout couch. The foam chairs are fuzzy on the outside, and then you notice the breakdown of yellow chunks coming out the bottom as the foam breaks down… this is polyurethane foam and it’s really disgusting. Not only highly flammable, polyurethane foam off gasses VOCs (volatile organic compounds), especially toluene, formaldehyde which are toxic chemicals found in stinky nail polish.  And with the flammability issue being a problem with fire regulations and the government – question number 3 comes along about what the filling is treated with.

Treatment:

Now that we’ve determined that the filling is flammable, what is it treated with? Besides the chemicals that are already in the filler (polyester, polyurethane foam, etc.) it is now also treated with flame retardants. We are protecting our children from a flammability issue by adding very toxic chemicals to our bed. Our mattresses and pillows are off-gassing us while we sleep. Exposure to flame retardants are so toxic they are a known cause of cancer – just Google brominated flame retardants and ask yourself if these chemicals should be anywhere near a child – especially a baby.  I was shocked to find out from Chelsea that wool is naturally flame retardant and therefore is not subject to chemical flame retardant treatments when it’s used to create mattresses, etc.

I know, I’ve stressed out every parent reading this. If it makes you feel better, I flipped over the queen mattress my younger son has slept on for the last 4 years and everything I’ve just written about was confirmed with reading the mattress tag…polyurethane foam as the only material listed. I also rounded up pillows until I found one with the tag still on it and saw 100% polyester. My nemesis of late – polyester!  Meaning we’ve all had our heads on plastic that has flame retardants in my house!  So trust me that I feel your pain and have equally stressed myself as well.

But all is not doom and gloom since I had several light-bulb moments while talking with Sleepy Sheep’s co-founder yesterday.  Chelsea gave me two very easy and low-cost steps you can make right away that will assist every bed in your home to become a healthier place….without having to budget for a wool mattress (not yet anyway).

Did you know that wool is naturally anti-bacterial, naturally flame resistant (!!), naturally breathable, and a natural allergen prohibitor because it’s a bad host to irritants such as dust mites?  Wool is the superior material used in organic or natural bedding, mattresses, and pillows because of these wonderfully natural properties. I find it so hard to believe that chemical flame retardants could be eliminated in our beds if they simply contained wool, rather than synthetic materials. I loved learning that if Chelsea could recommend one change for a family to improve the ‘health’ of their bed it would be to replace your pillows with wool batting interior. And really, that makes a lot of sense. Think of the hours you spend with your nose and mouth inhaling the material of whatever your pillow is made from. Most pillows are made with polyester fill (plastic) which is not healthy and Sleepy Sheep sells pillows made with wool balls called knops. These are little balls of wool and you can choose your level of fullness and voila ~ you’ve made a very inexpensive change to creating a healthier sleep environment.

Another great insight from Chelsea was that their number one selling product are organic mattress toppers for crib mattresses and adult size mattresses. That tells me that people at some level know how disgusting the inside of a mattress is and want a barrier between their bodies and a traditional mattress.  Check out this awesome tidbit from Chelsea – organic mattress toppers allow airflow around your body and because the interior of the topper contains wool, it’s fibers wick away a person’s sweat, and this moisture actually absorbs toxins that are off-gassing from a traditional mattress and causes the toxins to evaporate. I thought this was cool! The seal between your body and the traditional mattress is not 100% of course, but this alternative is obviously better than continuing to sleep on a mattress that is toxic to your heath. These toppers are a great alternative for parents just not ready to commit to the financial investment of an organic mattress.

When talking about a crib or child’s mattress, I really believe there is no financial compromise with their health. When new parents are spending $500 easily on strollers, I don’t think $250 is expensive for a healthy crib mattress where your baby will spend most of it’s time. Especially for a first baby – I think an organic mattress needs to be at the top of the list for people having baby showers. What better gift for a baby than the gift of health and a truly restful place to sleep.

I have more information that I will save for Part II and III of this series of toxic beds. There is a lot to learn and I encourage you to post comments to this article and share what you discovered once you started reading mattress, pillow, and duvet tags.  Let’s try to get through the information together.

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