In this modern age, you’d think that terms like “cancer-causing,” “toxic” and “harmful” would be enough to steer manufacturers clear of certain materials. Asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma are burdening the legal system, as attorneys find people who were subjected to unsafe chemicals in the course of work. And yet, our children, the most susceptible to diseases and harmful chemicals because of their not fully formed immune systems, are being routinely subjected to harmful chemicals in the name of safety.
Car seats protect children in most accidents, minor or major, there is no disputing that. They’re so effective, laws have been created to ensure that all children have the opportunity to benefit from them if they’re in a moving vehicle. “If your child is under age 4, “they must be properly secured in a child restraint system in the rear seat, if possible,” says the state Child Passenger Safety Laws. But most of these car seats are made with chemical components proven to be toxic and potentially harmful. According to HealthyStuff.org, carcinogens, hormone disruptors and developmental toxicants are all present in car seats and babies are the most affected by chemical-laden dust from these products.
A tricky situation
So why would car seat manufacturers continue to churn out a product that can be harmful to children? The easy answer is those lawsuits. Car seat manufacturers are concerned with providing a seat that offers protection in the incidence of fire because they’ve been sued previously. Standards and laws have been enacted requiring car seats to have an anti-flammability component. The grey area is how well those seats actually work in a serious situation. “Flame retardants only protect against very small flames, and if the flame retardant is underneath the child. It’s not going to make a difference,” Arlene Blum, a scientist and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute said during an interview with CBS.
The much more difficult issue is that these same companies don’t mean to put out a harmful product. In 2015, a major manufacturer claimed they’d created a seat, Orbit Baby, free of cancer-causing flame retardants. Ultimately, the company had to issue a recall, because high levels of a harmful chemical was found in their seats. It’s a delicate line to walk between health and safety.
Your best bet?
Harmful chemical levels are down in car seats, according to tests run by HealthyStuff.org. And while they’re still present to some degree, the best seats tested came from Britax and Maxi-Cosi.
Even more exciting though, UPPAbaby now claims that they’ve developed the first ever flame retardant free car seat, due for release in spring 2017. To meet fire retardant safety standards, they incorporated a wool blend into their Henry chair, which will be a part of their Mesa line. And while there is a certain cautious optimism to this new development— after all, Orbit Baby made a similar claim— it is exciting to see companies taking this issue seriously.
The bottom line is that you’ve got to do what you think is best regarding your child. Businesses are looking out for their bottom line, it’s important that you do what you feel works for your children. Until the laws catch up to the science, you are the best barometer for your child’s health and safety.