Scientists found chemicals they characterize as toxic flame retardants in 15 out of 18 children’s car seats tested in a new study.
The new research, published in Science Daily, was conducted by Indiana University and the Ecology Center, an environmental nonprofit organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan. All of the car seats were newly manufactured between January 2017 and February 2018 and were made in Canada, the United States or China, according to the study. The researchers tested 36 different fabric and foam samples from 18 car seats. Among the chemicals found were decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE), a brominated flame retardant known to cause oxidative stress, hormone disruption and thyroid problems, (tris(2,4-di-t-butylphenyl) phosphate (TDTBPP) and resorcinol bis(diphenyl phosphate) (RDP).
“New replacement flame retardants, often marketed as safer alternatives, are lurking in children’s products without rigorous safety testing and may pose risks for children’s health,” said Marta Venier, associate scientist at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and principal investigator on the study. “The abundance of emerging flame retardant chemicals in children’s car seats and the key role these products play as potential sources of chemical exposure is a cause for concern.”
Children’s car seats are required by law to meet the flammability standards for car interiors mandated by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 302, which was created in 1971 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Flame retardants are often used as a cost-effective way to meet this standard. However, as the study notes, flame retardants have been linked to a variety of negative health effects, including hormone disruption, impaired brain development, liver damage and cancer. Children are most vulnerable to these effects, the researchers note, because of their smaller size and their tendency to put their hands and other objects in their mouths.
Perhaps more worrisome, car seats are just one of many widely-used products including household furniture that contain flame retardants made with toxic chemicals, Time reports. Household products also contain a slew of other chemicals linked to cancer and that contribute to other developmental issues.
Experts add that car seats are still a vital safety tool and should always be used to protect kids, despite concerns over chemicals. It should also be noted that there are car seats that don’t contain these chemicals but they are all pricey models, which puts many parents in a bind. A list of the brands tested can be found here.
“We found that car seat manufacturers are intentionally moving away from certain toxic chemicals compounds that they know to be harmful, which is good news,” said Yan Wu, a postdoctoral researcher at Indiana University and the lead author of the study. “However, we know very little about the replacement chemicals they’re using. Car seats are vital for protecting children during a vehicle crash, but more research is needed to ensure that those seats are chemically safe as well.”
Toxic flame retardants found in children’s car seats, study shows