Car seats are undoubtedly a must-have if you want to keep your child safe in the car. Yet, as with so many other things, they can hide surprises that you might want your child to avoid. In this case the surprise is chemicals that, according to HealthyStuff.org, possess "known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment." They include bromine, chlorine and lead, among others.

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.
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Hazardous Flame Retardants and Chemical Additives Found in Over Half of 2011 Child Car Seats Tested by HealthyStuff.org

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.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 85 Comments
      Dest
      • 3 Years Ago
      For the record, I HATE these websites like this... Goodguide comes to mind as well. If they detect a miniscule amount of chemical they deem to be unhealthy, they will give it a ridiculously bad rating and hype up the negative effect of it when there are no regulations on it because there's no proof it's bad for anyone considering the tiny amount that is there. You're likely to inhale worse chemicals on a stroll outside. I mean is the fact that there's a bit of bromine in the seat clip really significant? I highly doubt it.
        LAURA
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dest
        Took the asbestos industry years to admit that there was a problem with their product. If you think the results of tests are honest and can be trusted then go ahead and dive into a vat of chemicals but most parents who wish to protect our developing childrens bodies from the onslought of chemicals would agree that it is better to err on the side of caution then pretend there is no negative effect. BTW, if a child chews on the bromine filled seat clip then yes, there is a problem--remember lead!
          Dest
          • 3 Years Ago
          @LAURA
          Guess what if my kid starts chewing on my laptop, my microwave, my speakers, my lamps, my bags, etc he's probably ingesting similar things. If HealthyStuff or Goodguide thinks that it's so dangerous maybe they should be reporting it to the government instead of blogs with nothing else to report on. Oh, and as I said, I hope you make sure your kid stays home with an air filter all day because going outside is going to expose him to chemicals of higher concentration than those found in a car seat belt clip.
      Lachmund
      • 3 Years Ago
      who would have though?! they are made out plastics
      Mad_Science
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ooof. This is some seriously weak science, with little to no correlation to actual safety. 1) It's not clear how they actually come up with the "overall" score (3.8 in the case of my kid's seat). 2) It's not clear how they come up with the individual chemical scores (1.0, 2.4, 4.0 etc) 3) Looking in detail at each chemical's PPM, those listed for my kid's seat are all under the established safety standards, yet it's somehow listed as a high-risk...? 4) They even disclaim the results themselves: "The information on HealthyStuff.org is meant to provide general information to the public on whether or not certain chemicals were detected in tested consumer products. HealthyStuff.org did NOT conduct studies to determine if the chemicals of concern will migrate or come out of the product, causing a direct exposure. Therefore, HealthyStuff.org can not determine whether the presence of these chemicals in a product results in human exposure, nor can HealthyStuff.org estimate the health risk posed by any product." They're referring to the bulk chemical makeup of each component, not any correlation to actual exposure or method thereof. Example 1: Who cares what the base of the seat is made up of? There's no exposure path, as the kid's always in the seat itself. Example 2: They don't specify when they test "seat" if they're testing the plasic body of the seat or the fabic cover or an amalgam of each or what. I'd really like to continue in more detail, as this is bad science fear-mongering of the worst kind, but I've gotta get back to work.
      palaminofancy
      • 3 Years Ago
      I tried to email this to someone, but couldn't because of your stupid recaptcha.
      David
      • 3 Years Ago
      Bad source link... remove the 2nd "http//" which is formatted wrong anyway. Good link: http://www.healthystuff.org/departments/childrens-products/product.seatsbestworst.php
      Ronman
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ok, so what do i do? My child's seat is in the top 10 worst picks, with a 3.8 Score, they give you the score and the ammount, but no info on whether this will cause any issues... is this a Graco my ride 65 sponsored thing? that thing is soooo damn big that it's obvious the chemicals in it will be relatively low... I will require an explanation on what the effects may be on my kid... if these trace amounts mean there is no reason to be worried, i would like the people testing these things to get a life and different job. As for those commenting and complaining about the relativity of this subject...You go get yourselves a life too...Good Going AutoBlog...
        Mad_Science
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ronman
        In short, do nothing. These results don't correlate with any real health risk.
      Enzo Ferrari
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just drug and duck tape your kids then toss them in the trunk like a loving mother would do.
      stickshiftn69
      • 3 Years Ago
      its all the bad economys failt
      Basil Exposition
      • 3 Years Ago
      As a general rule, annything "Made in China" has toxic chemicals in it. Common sense - how do you think they can make it so cheap? No regulations. Don't like toxic chemicals in your kids stuff? Don't but Chinese shiit. Most Americans care more about saving a few bucks than toxic chemicals in their kids' stuff.
        Alex
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Basil Exposition
        Don't buy Chinese ****? Pity we don't have a choice anymore these days, with all our consumer goods produced in Asia.
          caddy-v
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex
          Yes, in many cases you do have a choice. If you put up enouph of a fuss when buying and refuse to buy crap made in China and let the owner of the store know it, sooner or later they'll get the message. I recently had to replace all four tires on my camper and found that most of the major tire chains sell only camper tires made in China. I refused to buy and after several days that same chain found four made in the US of A by a major tire manufacturer. Every tire must carry a country of origin and you will find it on the bead, well hidden and in extremely small print.
          Ayya Boyya
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex
          VERY INTERESTING
          Basil Exposition
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex
          Caddy-V - same thing just happened to me with tires! The only whitewalls NTB had in my size were made in China, but when I made a fuss about it, a set of American made Cooper Trendsetters appeared. They were $30 more each, but to me that's well worth it. People who say it's impossible to not buy Chinese are just too lazy or too cheap to do it.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      mantoll
      • 3 Years Ago
      When will we learn not to buy any of Chinas products, All junk and now more dangerous then ever.
        xmailboxcancerx
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mantoll
        Good to mention though: this particular instance of toxic child car seats does not help their case at all. This is unacceptable.
        xmailboxcancerx
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mantoll
        Well, to be fair: (1) not ALL of it is junk, although a healthy amount of 'em are. And (2), they have had a horrendous history of creating far more dangerous products compared to what is offered from China today. It's still good to be constructively cautious of their products, but also fair to accept (and applaud) any effort by them to make products safer for export.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        carfan
        • 3 Years Ago
        no idiot, you don't want to pay 20% extra on products made in the USA...all the taxes added up will never make up for the difference in salaries between chine ($2.00/hour vs, USA $15.00/hour) A very stupid remark
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