But some car seats were found to be virtually free of the most dangerous chemicals, including bromine, chlorine, lead, other heavy metals, and allergens.
Graco MyRide 65 convertible car seatEnlarge Photo
Least toxic 2011 car seats include:
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
Most toxic 2011 car seats include:
Infant seat: Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black and Graco SnugRide 30 in Asprey
Convertible car 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
What’s a parent to do? First, according to Jeff Gearhart, research director at the nonprofit Ecology Center, which did the actual testing, don’t panic.
“We recommend that parents continue to use the car seats they currently have, regardless of the test results. Car seats save lives. We urge parents to use the test results when they’re in the market to move to the next level car seat.”
In the meantime, Gearhart outlined several strategies parents can use to mitigate potential exposure of infants, babies and toddlers to toxic chemicals.
(1) Frequent vacuum cleaning. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean car seat upholstery as well as other areas inside the vehicle. This will help reduce ingestion and inhalation of dust particles containing the toxic chemicals. Since hazardous chemicals are found in a number of products, the same frequent vacuum cleaning applies to the home environment as well.
(2) Frequent hand washing. Since infants, babies and toddlers are prone to hand-to-mouth behavior, it’s important for parents to frequently wash young children’s hands.
(3) Use solar shades. Since heat build-up in a car causes the release of toxic chemicals, minimizing the amount of the sun’s rays entering the vehicle by placing solar shades on the front windows will help cut down on heat.
(4) Ventilate the vehicle before entering. The same principle applies here. Help reduce the amount of heat trapped in the vehicle and remove some of the toxic chemicals by ventilating the car before placing children in car seats and getting underway.
What is important to remember is that many harmful exposures are cumulative and can come from many sources, not just car seats, but also in and around the home. Gearhart says that parents should approach this as a process. Look at all the products in the home and in vehicles. Then, as parents look at various purchases, research products and choose those testing safe for lower levels of chemicals.
Finally, Gearhart recommends that parents let manufacturers know that they care about this issue. “We want people asking questions of manufacturers, and we want manufacturers to address consumer concerns.”
The Ecology Center also participated in an earlier peer-reviewed study of a number of products designed for infants, babies and toddlers published in May by the Environmental Science & Technology Journal. That study included car seats. For more perspective on the earlier study, see an article posted on our sister publication, AllCarTech.
The new testing by HealthyStuff.org is actually a follow-up to the earlier study. HealthyStuff.org has been screening car seats since 2008, and the latest testing is the fourth year they’ve screened new car seats. Since 2008, average car seat rankings, in terms of toxicity levels, have improved by 64 percent.
See the full test results at HealthyStuff.org.