Uh Oh: Your Baby's Car Seat Might Contain Harmful Chemicals

Researchers found some harmful chemicals lurking in popular car seats. Is your model affected—and what should you do if it is?

Car Seat and Chemical Exposure
Many of the car seats on the market contain potentially toxic chemicals, according to some recent research by The Ecology Center. These chemicals are there for a good reason—they act as flame retardants—but they can cause hormonal shifts or even cancer. And unfortunately, according to the findings published on their Healthy Stuff resource, the issue is widespread: Researchers found harmful substances in seats from a wide variety of brands.

The researchers tested seats from brands like BabyTrend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Cosco, Diono, Evenflo, Graco, Joie, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, Orbit, Recaro and Safety 1st, and make recommendations about which ones contain the least chemicals, and which ones contain the most. If you haven't purchased a car seat yet, you're in luck—you can choose a seat based on these recommendations. And it appears parents may have more safe options in the future, as companies are taking this news seriously and looking to remove these toxic chemicals. (They've already removed lead, for example, from all models.) But if you've already picked up a car seat, should you stop using it if it's one that contains chemicals? Absolutely not! “It is essential that parents put their kids in properly installed car seats, which provide vital crash protection, regardless of chemical hazard,” says Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center research director, in a press release.

The researchers gave kudos to companies who have come the farthest in removing these chemicals. “UPPAbaby has finally proved that it is possible to make a car seat that meets federal flammability requirements without adding toxic flame retardants,” Gearhart says in a press release. “We now challenge other companies to follow suit, especially those that make low-cost seats. Car seats are required by law for children in vehicles, and an affordable seat should not come with a chemical exposure cost.”

Bottom line: Do what you can to limit your child's exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals. But keep in mind that the car seat is just one potential exposure, among the hundreds of products that your child will come in contact with over the first years of her life.