More car seats are made without toxic additives

Manufacturers respond to consumer demand for healthier products

Parents have greater access to less-toxic car seats than ever before, a new report by the Ecology Center finds. In a three-year span, five major companies have released car seat models that meet federal flammability standards without hazardous flame retardant chemicals: Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, and UPPAbaby. Although not a single toxic-free children’s car seat was available in 2016, the study finds that today there are 16 toxic flame retardant-free car seat models available for purchase. The report is based on a combination of Ecology Center independent testing and a comprehensive review of manufacturer claims.

“This new list of products proves that flame retardant-free car seats are now the gold standard and best practice,” stated Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center.  “Manufacturers who continue to produce seats with toxic flame retardants are going to be seen as dinosaurs.” 

This rapid development of new solutions illustrates the ways manufacturers can innovate when market or government pressures require it. States like New York are requiring disclosure and phase-out of harmful chemicals through policy like the Child Safe Products Act, such forward motion from product makers and retailers (as reported in the Retailer Report Card).

"It's exciting to see the market shifting for car seats, one for the many products children use every day. It shows how much is possible as companies respond to consumer demand. Enacting the Child Safe Products Act would accelerate this progress significantly. We look forward to Governor Cuomo signing this bipartisan bill into law," said Bobbi Wilding, Deputy Director of Clean and Healthy New York. "Parents shouldn't have to be toxicologists to choose products for their babies and children."

Exposures to toxic flame retardants have been associated with an array of harmful health impacts. “Car seats with added flame retardants put babies and young children in close contact with chemical additives, some of which are known to be carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and developmental toxicants,” explains Gillian Miller, Senior Scientist at the Ecology Center. “Babies are especially vulnerable to chemical-laden dust from products like car seats since their systems are still developing.”

The Ecology Center’s car seat testing focuses on flame retardants (FRs), which continue to be used despite significant health concerns. Children’s car seats have to comply with the flammability standards meant to apply to vehicle interiors, not children’s products. Federal regulators have not been able to show a meaningful safety benefit from requiring compliance with this standard. Automakers and the car seat industry often, but not always, meet these standards by using chemical flame retardants. These 5 companies have developed children’s car seats that meet flammability standards through material and design choices; not with added chemicals.

“It is essential that parents put their kids in properly installed car seats, which provide vital crash protection, regardless of chemical hazard,” said Melissa Cooper Sargent, green living resources director at the Ecology Center.  “However, there are now many choices on the market, so parents can choose a healthier car seat. We look forward to car seat companies launching FR-free options in all products, including lower-cost options.”  

The Ecology Center is also calling on Graco and Evenflo to join the ranks of companies offering FR-free car seats. In 2017, over 42,000 people signed petitions calling on car seat manufacturers to "Get toxic chemicals out of children’s car seats." Five companies responded, but industry giants, Graco and Evenflo, have not yet introduced any FR-free seats.

Highlights of the report:

  • Through material and design choices, Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, and UPPAbaby have developed children’s car seats that meet flammability standards without the use of added chemicals. 

  • Manufacturers are using a range of approaches to achieve FR-free seats, including using fiber blends with wool, which is naturally fire retardant, and changing the weave patterns in the fabric so that it’s denser with less air.

  • We applaud the strategy of applying design innovation rather than swapping out a chemical with known hazards for another chemical with unknown hazards.

  • Two companies feature seats with removable, washable covers to help avoid the need for stain-repellent coatings such as toxic PFAS. Maxi-Cosi’s PureCosi Magellan 5-in-1’s seat cover is easily removable with velcro straps. Britax’s entire SafeWash line has removable seat covers.

  • Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, and Nuna each have two or more FR-free car seats available. 

  • A total of sixteen FR-free seats are now on the market. These include seats for every age and stage of growth.

 

This new report reminds parents that car seats are critical safety devices and that parents should ALWAYS properly install and use a car seat for babies and children regardless of its chemical composition.

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Founded in 1970, The Ecology Center educates consumers to help keep their families healthy and safe, pushes corporations to use clean energy, make safe products, and provide healthy food, provides people with innovative services that promote healthy people and a healthy planet, and works with policymakers to establish laws that protect communities and the environment.

Clean and Healthy New York works for safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world. It co-leads the JustGreen Partnership, over 50 organizations working for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities, and leads the national Getting Ready for Baby campaign working to ensure all baby and children’s products are free of harmful chemicals.

The JustGreen Partnership is a coalition of about 50 groups representing nearly a million New Yorkers, all working together for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities. The Partnership focuses on transforming the policies that govern how chemicals are regulated or marketed in the great State of New York. Through our work, we are building a better movement for health and environmental justice in New York State.

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