(Seattle, WA) Parents put their children in car seats to keep them safe. However, a new study released today shows that those same car seats may be full of hazardous chemicals that are harmful to children.

The study, released by the Washington Toxics Coalition, the Michigan-based nonprofit Ecology Center and www.HealthyStuff.org, found that most car seats tested contained hazardous flame retardants, including several flame retardants that have been the subject of legislation in the Washington State Legislature this year.

The study found that nearly 75% of car seats tested contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants and over half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are hazardous as well. Researchers tested fifteen (15), 2014-model car seats for brominated, chlorinated, and organophosphate flame retardants and heavy metals.

“Car seats are critical safety equipment, which is why the new findings are very disappointing. Parents expect a product designed to keep kids safe not to contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer and hormone disruption ,” said Erika Schreder, science director with the Washington Toxics Coalition. “The Washington State Legislature has the opportunity to stop harmful chemicals from being used in car seats.”

A bill before the Washington State Legislature would ban five toxic flame retardants in children’s products, including car seats. It also would give state agency health experts authority to evaluate additional chemical flame retardants for safety. This provision is critical because of the problem of companies switching from one harmful chemical to the next. The bill passed the House twice by overwhelming bipartisan votes. The Senate has not yet considered the bill this year.

Flame retardant chemicals are generally not chemically bound to materials in car seats, but instead are released into air and dust over time. Children can be exposed through inhalation, ingestion of contaminated dust, and dermal (skin) absorption of these chemicals. Many children spend hours in a car every week, or even every day, exposing them to harmful flame retardants.

“Of course parents aren’t going to stop using car seats, but this study shows what a predicament we are in. I’m frustrated that companies haven’t fixed this problem. We need government to make sure these chemicals are safe before they are put in products my child uses,” said Courtney Normand, an Arlington mother of two.

“The only way to get ahead of this problem is to have experts evaluate chemicals for safety. Otherwise consumers and companies will continue to play chemical whack-a-mole with one bad chemical after another,” said Schreder.

Top rated companies in the study, Britax and Clek, have been aggressively implementing policies to reduce hazards in their products while still meeting all safety standards.  Specifically, Britax has found ways to use alternative materials that do not require use of flame retardants.

Other brands with products tested include: Chicco, Cybex, Dorel Juvenile Group (Eddie Bauer, Safety First), Evenflo, Harmony Juvenile, Orbit Baby, and Peg Perego.

The Washington Toxics Coalition suggests parents contact their state legislators and ask them to give state agencies the authority to ban toxic flame retardants in car seats and other children’s products. Parents buying car seats should go to HealthyStuff.org for a complete list of car seat rankings and chemical test results.

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