Some of the seatmakers, such as Graco, earned spots on both the best and worst lists. Although the best and worst performers in the tests earn a numerical score, the tests don't indicate the exact amount of the detected chemicals. Things have gotten better, though, with average car seat rankings improving by 64 percent since 2008.
You can find the press release with more details after the jump, and all of the tested seats ranked here.
Toxic Chemicals Linked to Allergies, Birth Defects, Impaired Learning, Liver Toxicity, and Cancer
Best Overall Child Car Seat: Graco Turbo Booster (in Anders)
Worst Overall Child Car Seat: Recaro Pro Booster (in Blue Opal)
Wed, Aug 3, 2011 -- The latest research on toxic chemicals in children's car seats was released today by the nonprofit Ecology Center at the consumer-friendly site, www.HealthyStuff.org. While some seats were found to be virtually free of the most dangerous chemicals, over half (60%) contained at least one of the chemicals tested for.
Over 150, 2011-model car seats were tested for bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; other heavy metals, and allergens. These substances have been linked to allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer. Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals and possibly increase their toxicity. Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure, since their bodily systems are still developing and they spend many hours in their car seats.
"Car seats save lives. It's absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving, regardless of the rating a particular seat received at HealthyStuff.org," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's Research Director. "However, our research shows that some car seats contain more harmful chemicals than others. HealthyStuff.org makes it easier for parents to research the best car seat for their child."
The site, which also has comprehensive data on toxic chemicals in toys, cars, home improvement products and more, allows users to look up the best- and worst-scoring car seats with respect to toxic chemical content. Anyone looking to buy a new car seat, or wondering how their child's current car seat compares to others, can visit this site and search by model, or comparison shop between different models or years.
"This study is yet another example of how our country's major chemicals law -- the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 -- is flawed and fails to protect children from hazardous chemicals," said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. "Databases such as HealthyStuff.org can provide consumers with valuable information, but reforming our federal regulatory system so that harmful chemicals don't end up on the market in the first place is long overdue."
Most Toxic 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 Mist
Least Toxic 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
Overall, car seats are improving in terms of their toxicity levels. Since 2008, when the Ecology Center first started doing this research, average car seat rankings have improved by 64%.
Other brands tested in 2011 include: Alpha Sport, Baby Trend, Clek, Compass, Dorel Juvenile Group (Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Maxi-Cosi, Safety First), Evenflo, Fisher Price, Harmony Juvenile, Orbit Baby, Peg Perego, Sunshine Kids, Teutonia and The First Years.
While there are numerous substances in car seats that can lead to health and environmental problems, the Ecology Center selected those with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include:
Bromine: Associated with the use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which are added to plastics for fire resistance. Some BFRs have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, and behavioral changes. A recent peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Science & Technology found a majority of baby products tested, including car seats, nursing pillows and baby carriers, contained chemical flame retardants either associated with adverse health effects or lacking adequate health information. Although fire retardants in foam are necessary to meet certain fire-safety standards, non-halogenated fire retardants are available, and many have a better safety profile. Brominated flame retardant chemicals that are either deemed toxic or that lack adequate health safety data were detected in 44% percent of the 2011 car seats tested. (NOTE: HealthyStuff.org did not test for all hazardous flame retardants, particularly chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs), and seats may contain other chemical hazards).
Chlorine: Associated with the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is widely used in plastics and is of concern to the environment and public health during all phases of its life cycle. PVC contains chemicals called phthalates, some of which have been associated with decreased fertility, pre-term deliveries, and damage to the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood. There is also evidence that phthalates can pass from mothers to babies through the placenta and through breast milk.
Lead: Lead is sometimes used as an additive in plastics. Exposure can lead to a number of potential health effects, including brain damage, learning disabilities, and problems with the kidneys, blood, nerves, and reproductive system.
Other: Other chemicals tested as part of HealthyStuff.org include antimony, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel and tin. The substances in this category are allergens, carcinogens, or cause other adverse health impacts depending on the concentrations and exposure levels.
Since 1997, researchers at the Ecology Center have performed over 20,000 tests for toxic chemicals on 7,000 consumer products. The family of HealthyStuff.org sites have attracted 1.5 million unique visitors and over 20 million page views. To sample these products they use a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, which identifies the elemental composition of materials in less than 60 seconds without destroying the product.
The Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety and HealthyStuff.org are now asking the largest car seat retailers, Graco and Evenflo, to take leadership to disclose and phase out hazardous chemical flame retardant additives. Consumers are encouraged to sign our petition to Graco and Evenflo at HealthyStuff.org.
For a complete list of car seat rankings and chemical composition visit www.HealthyStuff.org.