You've likely already seen some headlines about how many car seats contain toxic chemicals and worried if your seat made the list. Some are incredibly upset at the chemicals used, and there have even been a few people with a knee-jerk reaction of, "I'm getting a new seat!"
I write and research about chemicals and toxins. I work hard to keep as much of it out of my kids' lives and systems as possible. However, in this case? I'm really NOT concerned about the chemicals, but I AM concerned about the ramifications of this chemical announcement and want to tell you guys: DON'T FREAK OUT.
One of the chemicals, bromine, is added to plastic to help it be more flame retardant, and may be in the foam for padding as well. HealthyStuff.org had also previously found that it was present in many nursing pillows, and baby carriers even, and many times, merely lacked information to say whether or not it was safe. PVC was another chemical found on these car seats, which we all know is not safe for ingestion ... however, that brings me to my point. HealthyStuff.org says themselves in their disclaimer:
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. Studies intended to examine whether or not chemicals of concern do come out of products under various conditions can be done.
In other words, the presence of certain chemicals does not mean that they will get into your child's system. A chest clip is going to be on your child's chest, separated by clothing -- it's not like it's a teething toy. Granted, I do appreciate that companies like Sunshine Kids' Radian car seat and the Orbitz car seats used saline-based fire retardant. But as CPS Darren says on Carseat.org's blog:
What we do know for certain is that motor vehicle crashes remain a top killer of children 1-14 years old. Parents should still purchase a car seat based on how well it fits their child, fits their vehicle, and how easy it is to use correctly on each trip. I don’t want to diminish the risk of toxic chemicals to children. I am concerned about them, too. There may indeed be a risk to children from chemicals in car seats (and many children’s products), but this study seems completely inadequate to specify those risks.
We have a hard enough time getting parents to use the correct car seats for their child, in a correct manner, or sometimes getting them to use seats at all. It would be horrible if a parent decides to put a small child in an improper seat that endangers them because they were more concerned with the bromine count on the chest clip.
Again, like Darren says, if you are concerned, take your brand new car seat and let it air out in the sun a couple days. This allows for a lot of off-gassing, which can be more than sufficient to remove potentially hazardous gasses. You could even void your manufacturer warranty, possibly ruin your cover, and wash and scrub your cover in harsh chemicals ... but then you risk your child's seat going up in flames with your child in it.
Mostly, just focus on making sure you're using your car seat correctly, every single time, and that you're using a seat that's age appropriate for your child. The chemicals are important, of course, but the very real risks of an improperly fitting or used seat is much, much more immediate.
From the report, here are the most toxic car seats and the least toxic:
Most Toxic 2011 Car Seats:
Least Toxic 2011 Car Seats:
Here is the full list of best and worst car seats in terms of toxicity.
Are you concerned about the chemicals in car seats?
Image via Vassiliss Online/Flickr