Kids' car seat tests reveal chemicals
August 3rd, 2011
12:34 PM ET

Kids' car seat tests reveal chemicals

More than half of 2011 model children’s car seats contain one or more potentially hazardous chemicals, but the seats fared far better than previous years, healthystuff.org found.

Healthystuff.org, a project of the environmental non-profit The Ecology Center, found “chemicals of concern” in 60% of the more than 150 seats tested, including brominated flame retardants, arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.

Even so, the website calculated a 64% improvement between 2008 and this year’s seats.

“There’s been a not-so-quiet consumer revolution around chemical hazards in consumer products. The smart and strategic companies are quickly moving to make healthier products, and I think are going to have competitive advantage doing that,” said Jeff Gearheart, research director for Healthystuff.org.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates: Toxic America

Healthystuff.org picked the chemicals of concern based on studies showing links to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone imbalances and cancer.

Healthystuff.org tested for the presence of the chemicals using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer. The website did not test to see whether any of the chemicals were coming off the product and potentially exposing children.

All Baby Trend and Recaro seats tested contained brominated flame retardants, while more than four in five Britax seats did.  44% of all seats tested contained the chemical, which the Environmental Protection Agency says may cause liver, thyroid and neurodevelopmental toxicity.

Healthystuff.org ranked the best and worst seats based on how much chemicals of concern they contained. The findings have no bearing on how well these seats would do in a car accident.

Best Infant Seats: Chicco KeyFit 30 in Limonata, Graco Snugride 35 in Laguna Bay, and Combi Shuttle 33 in Cranberry Noche.

Best Convertible Car Seats: 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.

Best Booster Seat: Graco Turbo Booster in Anders.

Worst Infant Seats: Graco Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black, Graco Snugride 30 in Asprey.

Worst Convertible Seats: Britax Marathon 70 in Jet Set, and Britax Marathon in Platinum.

Worst Booster Seats: Recaro Pro Booster  in Blue Opal, and Recaro ProSPORT Toddler in Misty.

Healthystuff.org listed the Graco Snugride 35 in both the best and worst performers for infant car seats, possibly because of the different fabrics.

CNN contacted Graco, Britax and Recaro, or their public relations companies.  None commented on the testing by late Tuesday.

Brands tested include:  Alpha Sport, Baby Trend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Combi, Compass, Dorel Juvenile Group (Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Maxi-Cosi, Safety First), Evenflo, Fisher Price, Graco, Harmony Juvenile, Orbit Baby, Peg Perego, Recaro, Sunshine Kids, Teutonia, The First Years.

soundoff (291 Responses)
  1. Tim

    You can find a detailed report on your specific car seat (year, model) on healthystuff.org. It breaks down chemical content by location (base, seat, clip). It seems the clip is the biggest culpret and darker colored car seats tend to be higher in toxins. My kids cars seats have a medium level of toxins (.08 – mostly bromine in the clip). Most of the seats have at least a low or medium rating. It also rates toys and strollers. It looks like the only way to completely protect your kid is wrap them in plastic....of wait, that would also be bad.

    August 4, 2011 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Om at Home MaMa

      The bigger question is why are they putting these toxic flame retardant chemicals in anything anyway??

      If a child, or rather a house catches fire, flame-retardant material will not protect them. Someone is making money somewhere from all this. Dupont?

      It is time for all of us to fight to get these terrible chemicals removed from everything, as well as talk about how to remove them from items we might still have.

      Just a side comment. I always get frustrated when people do not think they can do anything about this. Here are 2 websites to get involved in the fight.



      August 16, 2011 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
  2. CMax

    Someone commented on people just wanting a cheap deal...irony is that the seats listed as problems are the more expensive brands out there. Britax $350, Recaro $275, Safety First Complete Air $200.

    I know 24 hour news is prone to scare tactics, but I would really like to see Mr Martin follow up on this with some real investigative journalism. Is this true or is this bunk that some fringe thinking group put together?

    As for me, I'm following up with my pediatrician and with a certain car seat manufacturer on the list.

    August 4, 2011 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • danyel

      I bet you know more than your Ped.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • DB Cooper

      I wouldn't bother with the pediatrician–most know less than you do– and most are open to corrupting influences whether it be the drug companies or the children's gadget companies.

      August 4, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
  3. not fair

    Bs seriously? Denial is more like it! This article clearly states our kids/babies are being poisoned by toxic chemicals in their baby furniture. It is not about the baby eating the furniture, toxin can be absorbed through your skin. My son is 11. I paid over 300.00 for a britax Marathon because we traveled a lot and I wanted the best safest car seat for him when he was little. He now has some pervasive learning issues. I sometimes wonder (especially lately with all of the news on this issue) if his learning difficulties may have been caused by all of the chemicals he might have been exposed to. If so, he didn't have a chance. Having a safe environment for our children should not be a trade off.

    August 4, 2011 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BH

      Re: Not fair
      You said "This article clearly states our kids/babies are being poisoned by toxic chemicals in their baby furniture. It is not about the baby eating the furniture, toxin can be absorbed through your skin."

      Actually, the article says "The website did not test to see whether any of the chemicals were coming off the product and potentially exposing children."

      I have an alternate theory regarding your kid's learning disabilities.

      August 4, 2011 at 10:51 | Report abuse |
    • Wrex

      LOL'ing at BH. Well played, good sir. WELL PLAYED!

      August 4, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse |
    • DB Cooper

      If you really want a safe environment; only give filtered water (Berkey filter is one of the best); only feed baby organic food and preferably locally grown; keep the child out of government schools–they are social engineering prisons; keep them away from the television and the radio and the latest technotronic gadgets which are all predictive programming tools; teach children to respect human life (in all stages of development or disability) and love them like you may not have them tomorrow. Don't EVER depend or EXPECT that "government" should be a parent to your child.

      August 4, 2011 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      BH is the type that totally disregards human life, laughs at others, dismisses their opinions likely because that's what's been done to him/her. Or, perhaps, chemicals affected you more than most. Now, how does it feel to read this? Jeeeesh, you are a nasty one.

      August 4, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse |
    • not fair

      Yes, well played BH and Wrex you guys should be proud of your selves because picking on sick kids is way cool. Way to be a human. I am sure everyone here appreciated your sadistic Darwinist BS.

      August 5, 2011 at 01:09 | Report abuse |
  4. Crystal

    On your main page, it says "toxics found in car seats" I think you mean "toxins"

    August 4, 2011 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Blasius

    made in China? or Korea?

    August 4, 2011 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wdog

      Without that info the article lost out.

      August 4, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
    • sweet_genius1

      My guess, China. When will people learn: DON'T BUY MADE IN CHINA products! This is not the first time the products that are made there are toxic. Plus, we are losing our jobs to them and they are poisoning us. Wake up!!!!

      August 4, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      I wonder where these seats are manufactured as well, I think these foreign companies are trying to kill our children through these products, (toys, too, remember?). We need to make these products in the good ole USA!!!!! STOP OUTSOURCING AMERICAN CORPORATIONS!!!!!!!

      August 4, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
  6. SafeConsumerProducts

    Where is all the testing BEFORE products hit the market? What's up with the purported investigations AFTER our children are poisoned?

    August 4, 2011 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Celeste

    'Toxics' or 'toxins'?

    August 4, 2011 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. koko

    hate kids anyway. stop breeding.

    August 4, 2011 at 06:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • UMakeMeCranky

      Perhaps your parents should have done the same...............

      August 4, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
    • @UMakeMeCranky


      August 4, 2011 at 20:35 | Report abuse |
  9. bill

    There are still obtuse folks that think marijuana is much more lethal. Like Obama and his cronies at the DEA that don't have to use science to make policy or humane decisions in a persons life. That anti PLANT policy was supposed to protect kids, too. Ha. The farce is exposed.

    August 4, 2011 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. bill

    Why must you spam continuously? Every article you "comment" has your spam and no comment on the story. Go away.

    August 4, 2011 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. AceRyder

    I called Britax to inquire about this since I just bought two of their seats.

    They are aware of the study and said that they have not been able to reach anyone at HealthyStuff to verify their testing methods. The woman I spoke with was baffled and said that absolutely no Bromide was used on the seats, that all chemical components passed federally mandated levels, and that absolutely no lead was in thier product.

    However, I would expect them to say no less since they are the manufacturer. Also however, they promised that they will address the study hopefully within 48 hours on this site: http://www.britaxusa.com/support/faq

    We'll see what they uncover/announce/refute/excuse; if they can't refute this or prove that the detected levels are negligible or the testing was not contolled, BuyBuy Baby will be giving me a refund PDQ.

    August 4, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nofoldems

      The testing was very superficial: The website did not test to see whether any of the chemicals were coming off the product and potentially exposing children.

      August 4, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
  12. bostonseal

    fyi, brominated flame retardants are used in plastics and other materials (cloth) as a fire retardant – check out your kids pajamas for the same chemical. Lead is used in plastics to stabilize it. We and our kids are literally swimming (well, crawling) in a sea of chemicals every day. Phalates are a huge concern as well... check out this report http://silentspring.org/our-research/everyday-chemical-exposures/household-exposure-study

    August 4, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DB Cooper

      I think it's spelled phathalates- also check out bisphenol A -hey the "scientistific community" has known about the dangers of these hormone mimickers for years...no problem; girls with breasts at age 8 and boys who may as well be girls they are so effeminate. Whatever; it's a great world. We have cheap entertainment and lots of it. Bread and circuses is all we need.

      August 4, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse |
    • @DB

      good point. and should be food for thought

      August 9, 2011 at 18:43 | Report abuse |
  13. Ryan

    I have three children and firmly believe that understanding the chemical content of the materials they use on a daily basis is very important. I would like to point out however that in order to understand what the chemical concentrations mean in relation to your children’s health, you must also understand how something can have a toxic effect on your body.

    There are three primary routes by which a person can be harmed by a toxic chemical; inhalation, ingestion and absorption. Note that absorption is one of the least likely routes of toxic effect in a non occupational setting. The skin is a very good barrier in most cases.

    If a chemical is not in a form where it can exert its toxic characteristics then it should not harm you. The main route of exposure is commonly ingestion for children and with kids displaying a lot of hand to mouth activities that would make sense. Based on this line or reasoning, the child would have to eat something with a chemical in it and that material would have to have a bioavailable source of that chemical. Bioavailability is defined as the amount of a chemical or drug that can be utilized by your body. So in order for the chemical to be problematic it would have to come out of the material, i.e. buckle, once it was in your body. many of these chemicals that are being discussed are not readily bioavailable to the best of my research. Licking them or even eating most of them if that were possible, would not cause the chemical to unbind from its current state, and then interact within a child’s body.

    I would just like everyone to remember that just because a chemical is present; it does not mean that it is in a form that will cause an adverse reaction. Look at how the chemical is being exposed to your body before you judge weather a product is bad or not.

    I do not work for any of these manufacturers, but I am a Public Health Scientist so I would like everyone to be well informed before they make a decision. Sadly the media does not seem to be discussing many of these types of stories with Toxicologists or Public Health Specialists, but more with folks like Dr. Sanjay Gupta who is a neurosurgeon. That is a little like asking a podiatrist what he things about your ear ache. Though medical doctors obviously know a lot about chemicals and the body, there are specific disciplines that deal with this topic, and those experts seem to be underrepresented. Dr. Gupta may have his MPH or DrPH and I missed it in my research, so I apologize if I did.

    August 4, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DB Cooper

      Did you hear about the Bisphenol A on the register receipts? I'm sure it's an accident though...

      August 4, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse |
  14. Ed M

    Why are these companies allowed to see this, they have to know the materials being used?
    China or Asian made again putting chemicals in that are not regulated.
    US Government? where are you in testing these products especially for our children?

    August 4, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DB Cooper

      The "government" doesn't exist to help you Ed. Please get that straight first and then you can move forward with a tiny, snowball's chance in hell of surviving with your brain cells somewhat intact rather than being turned to mush by the continuous, unrelenting media spin & propaganda which you are fed 24/7. "Government" is someone's IDEA –and it's isn't YOUR idea Ed. It's the idea of people you don't know, will likely never see (unless you trip over them inadvertently and don't know who they are anyway) and their IDEA of government is -THEIR POWER, YOUR MONEY, AND THEIR PARANOIA about staying in power and keeping YOUR money (which they believe is their money since they fabricate it out of thin air and nowadays enter it into a computer as digits). When the "government" allows all kinds of awful things to happen and to go on happening over many, many, many years –do you think it's all incompetence and accidents? Look at the Club of Rome, the think tank for the U.N. and look at Chatham House or the Council on Foreign Relations which are the British and American arms respectively, of the Royal Society for International Affairs...and start figuring out all about "your government".

      August 4, 2011 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
  15. Sam

    Don't you mean toxins? Toxics isn't a word. Stop destroying the English language for no reason.

    August 4, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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  16. DB Cooper

    Well..it does figure.. first the government gets involved and in cohoots with the insurance companies FORCES people to purchase the freaking contraptions and FORCES people to put their babies in them and THEN magically, they are filled with toxins. I'm sure it's all accidental. Just like it's accidental that the FDA approves of Aspertame which is a neurotoxin. Just like it's an accident that we have 12 wise men in Congress now that no one voted for. It's all just big mistakes and blunders and accidents, right? There is no agenda here people. Move along; nothing to see here...

    August 4, 2011 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Pam

    So let's see. 2011: Kid rides in top of the line car seat and is safe and secure during all car rides while drinking from a BPA free cup and chewing on a bamboo, all natural teething toy. 1950: Kid has no car seat to ride and is chewing on a lead based painted toy drinking from colorful plastic dishes made of melamine.
    The world of chemicals is amazingly complex, as our humans...and as chemical technology grows, we must look to the past so we can learn from our mistakes but atas, we as a country, don't like to look backwards ever and instead we push harder and harder all the while a few good people in lab coats are trying to play catch up testing all of these new amazing products/chemical make ups...

    August 5, 2011 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. not fair

    wow and yikes! Some people are really mean. Yes, well played BH and Wrex you guys should be proud of your selves because picking on sick kids is way cool. Way to be a human. I am sure everyone here appreciated your sadistic Darwinist BS.

    August 5, 2011 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jess

    As a parent, this is the most confounding kind of story. I suppose if you were a new parent choosing a car seat, this would be useful, but what are the rest of us supposed to do? Replace my $200 car seat? No, instead we just get left with the worry. I get what this group is trying to do, and I support it, but sounding the alarm and then saying the group hadn't even tested whether the chemicals were coming off the product and exposing kids? Really, what am I supposed to do with that? If you're going to report on something like this, it would be nice to empower people with something they can actually do.

    August 5, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. jessicaber

    Have you ever heard of a kid being hurt by gnawing on their car seat? I haven't. This is just like when I was pregnant 6 or 7 years ago and people had to start complainin about plastic bottles. If people are emotionally/ physically uncomfortable they have to have something to sensationalize.

    August 5, 2011 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Dannielle Fordham

    This really makes me worried. I payed good money for my son to have a Britax. I did this because its suppose to be safe. Now I'm finding out it could be hurting him.

    August 5, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. jessicaber

    I know what you mean. I had probably like 6 million different car seat inspections at my local fire department just to make sure that I was doing the right thing and every one convinced me that I was. What the heck?

    August 5, 2011 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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