Group Finds Toxic Chemicals in Half of Car Seats

Nonprofit consumer research group, Ecology Center, just announced that more than half of the baby and child car seats in use right now are tainted with toxic chemicals., one of Ecology Center’s projects, tested over 150 new car seats for flame retardants and toxins such as bromine, chlorine, lead, and allergens, which have all been linked to learning and developmental problems, said

HealthyStuff pointed out that bromine is associated with brominated flame retardants and that chlorine indicates the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers. Bromine, chlorine, lead and other heavy metals, and allergens have all been linked to a number of adverse health effects including allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer said HealthStuff. Heat and UV-ray exposure, which is common in car interiors, can also speed up the breakdown and adverse effects of these toxins, noted HealthStuff. Babies and children, because they are still developing, can be significantly impacted.

In response to its findings, Jeff Gearhart, research director at HealthyStuff, said, “Car seats are a safety device…. Parents should use a car seat regardless of what our tests show. None of the results of our findings mean you shouldn’t have a car seat, even if that car seat is the poorest one we tested.” Gearhart suggests, instead, that parents use the ratings when purchasing car seats, said The rankings, said Gearheart, “makes it easier for parents to research the best car seat for their child.” wrote that while some seats tested with low or no flame retardant chemicals, some tested very high, such as the Recaro Pro Booster in Blue Opal’s seat with 2,193 parts per million (ppm) of bromine and 61,130 ppm of chlorine; the base contained 36 ppm of copper; the Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set contained 2,043 ppm of bromine and 628 ppm of chromium in the seat and the clip tested with bromine, lead, and copper; and the Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Misty tested with 1,739 ppm of bromine and 52 ppm of copper in the seat, with bromine and lead detected in the base and clip. Complete test results can be accessed here.

“We think these findings are important and raise cause for concern,” said Gearheart, “But we want folks to realize you need to take practical steps where you can, and you can’t eliminate all of these hazards in one fell swoop,” Gearheart added, according to HealthyStuff. Ecology Center said it chose chemicals with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include—in addition to bromine, chlorine, and lead—antimony, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel, and tin known allergens, carcinogens, and heavy metals linked with adverse health events.

Of note, said Arlene Blum, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley’s chemistry department and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, “The problem is the children are being exposed to flame retardant chemicals that, in this usage, do not provide a fire safety benefit,” reported Blum, who was not involved in the study, pointed out that bromine flame retardants, which are effective flame retardants, are rendered ineffective when they are not on the car seat’s fabric, which is what will ignite first, said

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