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Guest Post: Toxic Chemicals in Car Seats by Keren Simanova

The main reason parents use car seats is to keep their little ones safe in case of an accident. So, the responsible parent researches all the car seats on the market based on safety ratings and versatility. 
Who would have thought about researching car seats to see if they contain toxic chemicals that are linked to learning and memory impairment, thyroid issues, immune system dysfunction, and cancer?
Babies and small children are the most vulnerable in terms of exposure to chemical toxins. Their internal organs are developing rapidly. When a child is exposed to toxins, the toxins can be absorbed through the skin, mouth, or inhaled from the air. 
Choosing the right car seat is, obviously, one of the most important decisions you will make. You’ll not only need to take into consideration the physical safety of the car seat but the chemical safety as well. 
In this case, chemical safety refers to the presence of toxins that come from fabric treatments and flame retardants found in the materials of the seat. You want to be aware of the toxins that the car seat will expose to your child. 
Is My Child’s Car Seat Toxic?
Most car seats are made with toxic flame retardants in order to meet the guidelines set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The manufacturers are required to meet the same federal fire test standards that apply to your car’s interior.  
Flame retardants made with chemicals are inexpensive. In addition to flame retardants, many manufacturers will treat the fabric in the seat with perfluorinated (PFCs) chemicals. These are treatments used to repel stains, grease, and water. 
When children are in the car seat, they inhale or absorb the toxic gasses that are coming off the seat. These toxins enter their bodies and accrue over time, thus causing long-term health problems such as thyroid disease, sexual dysfunction, growth disorders, and a multitude of other hormonal disorders.
And let’s face it. Many parents will let a sleeping baby stay in the car seat as opposed to waking them up to remove them, resulting in the baby sleeping in the seat for hours. 
Are All Car Seats Toxic?
The majority of car seats found on the market are toxic. However, since studies first originated about car seat toxicity, a few manufacturers have begun making car seats without chemical flame retardants or PFCs. As it turns out, flame retardants aren’t necessary. They only delay the flames by seconds. 
So, instead of using chemical ladened fire-retardant materials, manufacturers have started using flame-retardant materials such as polyester and wool. They still meet standards without using chemical flame retardants. 
So, What Should I Do?
  • When researching car seats, look for companies that have comprehensive chemical policies
  • Limit the child’s time in the car seat
  • Avoid direct sunlight on the car seat
  • Avoid high temperatures
  • Vacuum the car seat frequently
  • Vacuum the interior of the vehicle regularly
  • Open the car windows when possible
So, yes, while safety is extremely important, ideally, we want to avoid the more toxic chemicals found in car seats. Fortunately, some brands do contain fewer toxins. 
What Brands Are the Safest?
Car seats that don’t contain chemical flame retardants and PFCs are becoming more and more “in demand.” As a result, a few manufacturers have begun producing them with less chemical toxins. 
Below is a list of car seats with less chemicals available on the market right now:
UPPAbaby was the first to hit the market with their wool-poly blended car seats. The seat is very easy to install and has the LATCH system. The SmartSecure installation system and tightness streamline the installation procedure – if the settings show any red, the car seat isn’t aligned or tight enough. 
This seat does not contain any flame retardants, PFCs, or components containing bromine. It features side impact protection, a no-rethread harness. The seat cover is machine washable and is easy to use with the UPPAbaby stroller. It can be installed with the European path should you desire to use it for travel.
  • Our Second Choice: NUNA PIPA LITE FOG.
Weighing only 5.3 pounds, the Nuna Pipa Lite is the lightest seat on the market right now. This is the first car seat this company made without any flame-retardant chemicals. 
The material of the seat is machine washable. It is made of a blend of Merino wool and Tencel, which is made from wood pulp. The infant cushion is made with organic cotton, and the canopy has a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50. 
Unlike UPPAbaby, the Pipa Lite cannot be used with a belt-path installation. If you plan to travel on an airplane, you’ll need to take the base.
It does not contain any flame retardants, PFCs, or components containing bromine. It also has side impact protection and uses lightweight foam.
The CLEK FLLO is more compact than most and allows “three across” the back seat of the vehicle. It features a steel anti-rebound bar and can also be used rear-facing up to 50 pounds. 
It does not contain any flame retardants, PFCs, or components containing bromine. This car seat does not have any flame-retardant chemicals in any of the components either. Additionally, it has Energy-Absorbing Crumple Technology and side impact protection. 
  • Our Fourth Choice: CLEK LIING.
The newest addition to the Clek family, the Clek Liing is made with 100% Merino wool. The canopy features SPF (sun protection factor) 100 protection and the seat recline can be repositioned even after the base has been installed. Additionally, it can be installed using the European belt path, making it great for travel.
It does not contain any flame retardants, PFCs, or components containing bromine. It has a two-piece energy absorbing shell and a Rigid-LATCH system.
Worst Car Seats with Toxins.
Below is a list of car seats that are considered to be of high concern when tested for hazardous chemicals:
  • Baby Trend  EZ Flex Loc Infant Morning Mist
  • Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Regatta
  • Evenflo Nurture Infant Blake
  • Evenflo  SureRide DLX Convertible Paxton
  • Graco Contender 65 Convertible Piedmont
  • Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 Infant Kyte
  • Nuna Pipa Infant Graphite
Public health groups all over the country have united in an endeavor to update the government’s and the NHTSA’s mandatory flammability standards. Hopefully, more manufacturers will fall in line soon and produce chemical-free car seats. Thus, parents can purchase affordable toxic-free car seats and children are not exposed to unnecessary chemicals.
Though there aren’t that many car seats that are completely free of chemical flame retardants and PFCs at this time, non-toxic car seats are beginning to grow in popularity and availability. While physical safety and versatility are the primary focus when it comes to choosing a car seat, it is also important to consider toxic safety. 
As a parent, we don’t want to expose our children to unnecessary toxins that result in a range of health problems.

About the Author:
Keren Simanova is a busy mommy by day and a passionate writer by night. While spending countless hours researching car seats for her children, she created an educational car seat blog, to educate other mothers about the importance of car seats. Further, along the way, the blog became an invaluable source for research of a variety of car seat brands, unique features, and mommies’ reviews. 


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