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Just like any other baby products, car seats for babies and toddlers can be also toxic. Although toxic chemicals in a car seat is not the first thing parents wonder and research about, it should be definitely considered for the safety of our babies and toddlers. Otherwise, babies and toddlers are exposed to hazardous chemicals every time they stay in the car. There are safe car seats available that have no toxic chemicals. You can avoid exposing your kids to toxic chemicals in the car. In this post, let’s look at how a car seat can be toxic to a baby or a toddler and check out safe, non toxic car seats available.
Infant Car Seat And Convertible Car Seat
There are two types of car seats for babies and toddlers: An infant car seat and a convertible car seat. An infant car seat can be used from birth. It has a weight and height limit the seat can be used up to. Uppa Baby Mesa infant car seat, for example, can be used from 4 to 35 lbs, or up to 32 inch height. Most toddlers reach the height limit first which is at around 12-19 months. Then they will move on to a convertible car seat which is a next step. Convertible car seat can be used from infant stage to toddler stage ( up to 65 lbs, up to 49 inches tall). It can also be used from birth at 4-5 lbs. A convertible car seat supports much more weight and height of a child than an infant car seat, therefore, you can use it longer.
Another major difference between an infant car seat and a convertible car seat is a car seat’s ability to attach to a stroller. An infant car seat can be attached to a stroller. Therefore, parents can remove the car seat from the car and place it on top of the stroller when baby is in sleep. On the other hand, a convertible car seat can not be attached to a stroller. For this reason, some parents choose to buy an infant car seat first then move onto a convertible car seat. They want to be able to move a baby to a stroller without waking the baby up. In addition, the car seat is specifically built for an infant so it fits better especially if you have preemies. However, others skip an infant car seat and buy a convertible car seat from the beginning. Most convertible car seats can be used from 4-5 lbs in rear-facing then they can be switched to front facing for a toddler later. I bought an infant car seat first then moved on to a convertible car seat. For me, I wanted to be able to take the car seat out of the car and attach it to a stroller. (You can read my ‘Uppa Baby Mesa Infant car seat review’.)
Problem With Most Car Seats
When you are buying a car seat for your baby, your main concern is your baby’s safety from collision. Therefore, when buying a car seat, parents mainly focus on the safety features of the car seat. However, car seats that we buy for our babies have toxic chemicals that our babies breathe in every time they are in the car. All car seats have to pass the federal fire standard test. In order to pass the test, car seat manufacturers use flame retardant chemicals. Toxicity of flame retardant chemicals is not something we usually think about when buying a car seat. However, flame retardant chemicals are in fact, very hazardous to our babies’ health.
Ecology Center has tested 12 brands of car seats in 2015 (15 car seats) for heavy metals and flame retardant chemicals. Almost every car seat tested contained one or more known flame retardant chemicals in the result. (Car Seat Study Overview and Consumer Guide 2015) In 2016, 16 car seats were tested, all of the car seats contained flame retardant chemicals. Most of them had brominated flame retardants which are toxic. We buy car seats for safety of our babies and toddlers, however, these toxic flame retardant chemicals can have harmful health effects to them. (Howe Toxic Is Your Child’s Car Seat?)
Flame Retardant Chemicals
A flame retardant slows down the spread of fire and lowers its intensity. Most infant and convertible car seats contain at least one chemical flame retardant in order to meet the federal fire test standard for car interiors and accessories. Commonly used chemicals in flame retardants are brominated, chlorinated, and phosphate-based chemicals. Brominated and chlorinated-based chemicals are also called halogenated and they are toxic & hazardous to our health. Many of these brominated & chlorinated chemical additives are known to be carcinogens, hormone disruptors and developmental toxicants. Brominated or chlorinated flame retardant chemicals include HBCD, TBC, UBC, TCPP and TDCPP. On the other hand, some of halogen-free, phosphate-based chemicals are safer choice for flame retardant.
So how do babies and toddlers get exposed to toxic flame retardant chemicals? Toxic chemicals of flame retardants in the fabric and foam of the car seats settle into the air and babies breathe in them. Babies are more sensitive and susceptible to toxic chemicals. However, they are being exposed to the chemicals that cause thyroid disruption, cancer, learning problems, advanced puberty, lower IQ, reduced fertility, delayed mental and physical development. Actually flame retardant chemicals have no evidence of safety benefit. Kathy Curtis, policy director of Clean New York, a non-profit organization advocating for chemical safety said that polyurethane foam in furniture and baby care products is highly flammable, despite the added flame retardants certain flammability standards require. There are growing concerns that chemicals in flame retardant may not effectively reduce flammability but instead offer harmful chemical effects to our babies and children. (‘Are Flame Retardant Safe? Growing Evidence Says No.’)
Car Seats Without Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals – Non Toxic Car Seats
Non Toxic Car Seat – Infant Car Seats
Uppa Baby Mesa Infant Car Seat, Henry is the first model to pass the federal fire standard test without using any flame retardant chemicals. (launched in 2017) It is made with a naturally fire retardant wool. Uppa Baby Mesa Infant Car Seat is also one of the best, safest car seat available. (Read my previous post, Uppa Baby Mesa Car Seat Review – Why This Infant Car Seat Is Safe.) Nuna also introduced Pipa Light Infant Car Seat which also has no flame retardant chemicals. Both Uppa Baby Mesa Henry and Nuna Pipa Light car seats are infant car seats. If you are looking for a non toxic convertible car seat, take a look at next options below.
Non Toxic Car Seat – Convertible Car Seats
According to Ecology Center’s study, all convertible car seats tested contained one or more flame retardant chemicals in the car seats. However, some brands used toxic chemicals while other brands used safer flame retardant chemicals. In the study, out of 15 car seats, only two car seats were highly recommended as a result of the tests: Britax Marathon Clicktight Convertible Car Seat and Maxi-Cosi Pria 70. They both use halogen-free (breminated-free and chlorinated-free), phosphate-based fire retardant chemicals which is much safer than toxic brominated and chlorinated based chemicals.
Non Toxic Car Seat – Britax Brands
In Ecology Center’s 2015 study, three of Britax car seats were tested along with other brands. (Frontier, Parkway, Marathon) In the test, Britax models contained the least toxic flame retardant chemicals and got the best rankings out of all tested brands. I really like Britax. Britax restricts over 100 chemicals, such as brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, phthalates and metals in their car seats. They have not only made commitment to manufacture less toxic car seats over the years but also make really secure and safe convertible car seats.
Currently, Britax has Britax Marathon Clicktight Convertible Car Seat, Britax Blouvard Clicktight Convertible Car Seat and Britax Advocate Clicktight Convertible Car Seat in convertible car seat category. Britax Marathon Clicktight Convertible Car Seat was highly recommended by Ecology Center in their study. It got tested in both 2015 & 2016 studies and got the best rankings for safety of toxic chemicals. The main difference between these three models are added side head protection. Each model basically has same seats but different protection layers for side head protection. Britax Marathon has 1 layer and Britax Blouvard has a secondary layer which is pillow wings. Britax Advocate has the most protection layers of 3. It has side impact plastic to the outside of the car seat. I personally loved the safest side head protection of Britax Advocate model, therefore, I got this model for my daughter. Besides being a non toxic car seat, I really feel Britax Advocate offers good protection with 3 layers.
Non Toxic Car Seat – More Choice
If you want a more choice, Clek Foonf Rigid Latch Convertible Car Seat was also moderately recommended by Ecology Center in their study.
As you can see there are options available for a non toxic car seat. While most of car seats contain toxic flame retardant chemicals, these non toxic car seats will not expose our babies and toddlers to harmful chemicals. That means with these car seats, your baby or toddler is not breathing toxic chemicals every time she/he is in the car. Hopefully, more manufacturers make a change towards a non toxic car seat to protect our babies and toddlers in the future.
You can read my review on Britax Advocate ClickTight convertible car seat in my post, ‘Britax Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat – Safest Convertible Car Seat‘.
If you want to read more about Uppa Baby Mesa infant car seat, check out my review ‘Uppa Baby Mesa Car Seat Review – Why This Infant Car Seat Is Safe‘.