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Child Car Seat Makers Urged to Phase Out Toxic Chemicals in Their Products

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SnugRide 30 Car Seat in AspreyThe Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety and HealthyStuff.org are calling for the manufacturers of the most popular child car seats — Graco and Evenflo — to disclose and phase out hazardous flame retardant additives in those products, after a recent study found that 60% of all child car seats contain toxic materials that have been linked to allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, which identifies the elemental composition of materials in less than 60 seconds without destroying the product, researchers at HealthyStuff.org’s nonprofit Ecology Center tested more than 150 of this year’s (2011) child car seats for bromine, chlorine, lead, other heavy metals, and allergens. Heat and UV-ray exposure speed up the breakdown of these chemicals and may increase their toxicity, which is especially dangerous for babies, whose immune systems are still in development and who spend a lot of time in car seats.

“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.

HealthyStuff.org lists the car seats tested and rates them according to whether they contain toxic chemicals or not:

Most Toxic 2011 Car Seats:

•    Infant Seat: Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black and Graco SnugRide 30 in Asprey
•    Convertible Seat: Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set and Britax Marathon in Platinum
•    Booster Seat: Recaro Pro Booster in Blue Opal and Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Mist

Least Toxic 2011 Car Seats:

•    Infant Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 in Limonata, Graco Snugride 35 in Laguna Bay, and Combi Shuttle 33 in Cranberry Noche
•    Convertible Car Seat: 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

Researchers also tested 2011 models of the brands 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.

The Ecology Center first began its research on toxins in car seats in 2008, and, since then, the toxins in car seats have decreased, with average car seat rankings improving by 64%. Researchers chose to look at child car seats for those chemicals with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment, while saying there are numerous other substances in car seats that can lead to health and environmental problems.

Among the chemicals researchers found in child car seats, HealthyStuff.org writes that bromine is:

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, another chemical that the study found in child car seats, is connected to polyvinyl chloride (PVC), used in plastics and containing phthalates, chemicals linked to decreased fertility, pre-term deliveries, and damage to the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood. Exposure to lead, which is sometimes used in plastics, can cause brain damage, learning disabilities, and problems with the kidneys, blood, nerves, and reproductive system.

HealthyStuff.org also tested child car seats for antimony, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel, and tin. These are allergens or carcinogens, or can cause other health problems.

You can find a complete list of child car seat rankings at www.HealthyStuff.org, which encourages consumers to sign its petition asking Graco and Evenflo to disclose and phase out hazardous chemical flame retardant additives in their products.

As blogger Jennifer Chait writes on Growing a Green Family, it is ironic that a product designed for safety — to prevent children from getting hurt in car accidents — is hazardous to health because of the materials it is made of:

I’ve never seen even one car seat (as of yet)  made with organic fabrics and few are made with child-safe dyes. Car seats are about as opposite of eco-friendly as you can get. Yet, obviously car seats are 100% safer than tying your baby down with a nice recycled box and some organic hemp rope — know what I mean?

Image by HealthyStuff.org, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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