As a Chicago personal injury lawyer and father of two children, I am always concerned about the safety of any product my children use. Cars seats are certainly no exception. Like many parents, when researching the safety of car seats, I focused primarily on how I thought the seats would hold up in the event of a crash. As revealed in a recent study, crash worthiness (ie, the ability of the seat to protect a child during impact) is not the only important concern. We as parents must also consider whether the car seat is filled with dangerous chemicals. Indeed, healthystuff.org found more than half of 2011 child car seat models contain one or more potentially hazardous chemicals.
Healthstuffy.org is a project of the environmental not-for profit group, The Ecology Center. The group found "chemicals of concern" in 60% of more than 150 seats tested. "Chemicals of concerns" are defined as any chemical linked to serious health problems including reproductive troubles, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone imbalances, and cancer.
Arsenic was one of many potentially hazardous chemicals found in the 2011 child car seat models. Although arsenic a naturally occurring element in our environment, excessive exposure to arsenic is known to cause many dangerous conditions, some fatal, including cancer. Very high doses of arsenic have been used in murder and suicide cases.
In addition to arsenic, the study found mercury in child car seats. Mercury, also known as quick silver, is the only metal that is liquid at standard conditions. Commonly used in thermometers, it is now well established that mercury is a toxic chemical that can also pose a serious health hazard, including poisoning, depending upon the level of exposure.
2011 car seat brands tested by Healthystuff.org included: 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. Healthystuff.org ranked the best and worst seats tested in their study based on how much chemicals of concern they contained as follows:
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, perhaps, because of the different fabrics used by the manufacturer.)
Despite the fact over half 2011 child cars seat models tested contain potentially dangerous chemicals, Healthstuff.org determined this is still a 64% improvement from 2008 car seats. Research director Jeff Gearheart observed "[t]here has been a not-so-quiet 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 take competitive advantage doing that." Whether because of safety or gaining a competitive advantage, manufacturers must commit to making child car seats as safer. This includes eliminating all unnecessary chemicals that can harm children. As parents and consumers, we must demand nothing less.
CNN.com, Kids' car seats reveal chemicals, August 3, 2011.
Cancer.org, Arsenic, August 4, 2011.
Wikipedia, Mercury, August 4, 2011.
Wikipedia, Mercury Poisoning, August 4, 2011.