Child Car Seats Found to Contain Toxic Chemicals That May Pose Health Risks: Report

New safety tests suggest that many child car seats contain high amounts of toxic flame retardants, which may pose potential health risks. However, researchers indicate that the seats remain vital to protecting children in the event of a crash.

According to a recent study conducted by the consumer advocacy group The Ecology Center, nearly three-quarters of infant car seats tested contained hazardous chemicals that may be toxic to small children and adults.

Eleven of 15 infant car seats contained halogenated flame retardants. Half of the seats contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are also hazardous. None of the seats tested by Ecology Center were found to be free of potentially harmful chemicals.

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Chemicals are commonly added as flame retardants in consumer products, including the foam of car seats, to meet federally mandated flammability requirements of the overall interior of the motor vehicles.

The foam is also important during crashes and absorbs the energy of the impact to protect children from injury.

Researchers detected chemicals, such as bromine and chlorine, in the foam of the seats. These chemicals are also used in some flame retardants.

Halogenated flame retardants are linked to many long term health effects, including endocrine and thyroid disruption, reproductive toxicity, cancer and side effects to neurologic function. They do not break down in the environment or the body to something safer over time and are bioaccumulative, which means they build up in the body.

Testing determined chlorinated tris was found in two of the seats. This is a known carcinogen that was removed from children’s pajamas many years ago and is prohibited in many states, but may be in use in many places.

Researchers say the flame retardants can be released from the foams and fabrics of products through regular use. They will also settle in the air and in the dust in the vehicle, becoming potentially toxic for the child, but also other passengers.

Bromine and chlorine were detected chemicals in the flame retardants. However researchers say the presence of heavy metals, like lead and chromium, in the foam is even more troubling and was found in a small number of the infant seats tested.

The study revealed a slight overall decline in one type of flame retardant compared to the tests of infant seats in previous years. Researchers call for additional regulations to limit the presence of the flame retardants worldwide.

“Flame retardant chemicals and alternatives used by companies are poorly regulated, putting consumers at risk, and questions the fire safety benefit of using these chemicals” wrote study authors.

Overall, researchers say despite the concerns the results of the study raise, using a properly installed child safety seat is the optimal way to transport a child by car.


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