Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Flame Retardants Chemicals Still Used in All But ONE Car Seat Brand Tested (new study)

A new study  by the Ecology Center was released today about the state of flame retardants in our children’s car seats.

What's NEW
In this new study, the Ecology Center tested 15 car seats (both infant and toddler).  This time, they included  two from the United Kingdom (I would imagine because laws in Europe are quite different to the laws in the US), by the following manufacturers: BabyTrend, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Cosco, Diono, Evenflo, Graco, Joie, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, Orbit, Recaro, and Safety 1st; and a 2017-model car seat from UPPAbaby.  

The Good:
  • The first ever flame retardant chemical free car seat will be available starting Feb 2017 (This date has been pushed back to June by UppaBaby  Follow us on Instagram for updates on when it will be available @nontoxicmunchkin.com )!  Uppa Baby’s ‘Henry’ Mesa car seat uses a wool blend (wool in naturally fire retardant) and expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam as the impact-absorbing foam  (because EPP does not require additional FRs), instead of FR chemicals.  Hurray!   We will provide a link here to this car seat as soon as it hits the market!  Please note ONLY the HENRY will be free of flame retardant chemicals.   The other Mesa car seats will still use flame retardant chemicals.
  • For the first time since  testing started in 2006, no lead was detected in any seats.

The Bad
  • Other than the one Uppa Baby model, every single car seat tested had FR chemicals. Both in the foam/padding and in the fabric
  • Some car seats have stopped using the ‘worse’ kind of flame retardants (chlorinated tris and brominated flame retardants) this is a step in the right direction, however they have replaced it with chemicals that are ‘thought’ to be safer but have not really thoroughly been tested for safety/toxicity (especially for daily exposure in such a young population).

The Ugly
  • Most car seats (13 out of 15 tested) still contain brominated flame retardants (BFRs)- which is especially worrisome since these chemicals ( also called halogenated) are considered quite toxic and extremely persistence in the environment

 (for a detailed history on why there are chemicals in car seats, and why these chemicals are bad, scroll down after the results)

Highly Recommended
Flame Retardant used:  no chemicals, only wool

Design :  Vibe
Type:  Convertible
Model Year: 2016
Flame Retardant used:  the considered ‘safer’ non halogen FR on the foam.  Nothing found con the fabric.

Design:  Blue base
Type:  Infant
Model Year 2016
Flame Retardant used:  the considered ‘safer’ non halogen FR on the fabric.  No chemicals found on the foam.

Moderately Recommended
Design:  Capri
Type:  Convertible
Model Year: 2016
Why is it Moderately recommended?: The warning label was found to contain Brominated FR.  (the Pu foam uses the considered ‘safer’ phosphate based FR )

Orbit Baby - G3 Toddler Convertible Car Seat
Design:  Black
Type:  Toddler
Model Year: Oct 2015
Why is it Moderately recommended?: While the foam and fabric use the (considered safer) phosphate based FR, the velcro on the seat was found to contain brominated FR.  

Highest FR levels/not recommended
Baby Trend- Secure Snap Gear 32 Infant Car Seat   
( brominated FR found on fabric)

Chicco- KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
( brominated FR found on foam)

Cosco- Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat
( brominated FR found on fabric)

Diono- Rainier Convertible + Booster Car Seat
( brominated FR found on fabric)

Evenflo- Nuture Infant Car Seat
( brominated FR found on foam)

Graco- Milestone Group 0-1-2-3 Car Seat (UK)
( brominated FR found on fabric and foam)

Graco - MyRide 65 Convertible Car Seat
( brominated FR found on fabric and foam)

Joie- Stages Group 0+,1,2 Car Seat (UK)
( brominated FR found on fabric)

Nuna- Pipa infant Car Seat
( brominated FR found on fabric, foam, canopy and frame plastic)

Recaro- ProRide Convertible cAr Seat
( brominated FR found on fabric and foam)

Safety 1st - Grow and Go 3 in 1 Convertible Car Seat
( brominated FR found on fabric)

Considering all (except the new UPPA Baby Henry Mesa car seat) car seats on the market contain some type of chemical flame retardant it is important to:

  • Limit the time your children spend in their car seats. Only use the car seat during travel, not as a place for your child to nap or sit outside of the car (especially common for infants)
  • Limit direct sunlight on the car seat and high temperatures in your car. Window coverings in a car also substantially lower the interior temperature on a warm day.
  • Vacuum the car interior and the nooks and crannies of car seats. Chemicals that migrate out, including flame retardants, can cling to dust particles. Open the car windows when possible.
  • Washing car seat covers can remove contaminated dust and other particles (you will not be able to ‘wash off’ the amount of FR chemicals put on the fabric)

Background info
As always, safety comes first and babies and children need to be placed in car seats, regardless of chemical exposure.  Having said that, there are car seats on the market that will expose you children to significantly more toxic chemicals than others - so it is definitely worth doing your research (or reading this post!)

The law
 All car seats in the market right now in the US contain at least one chemical flame retardant in order to meet the federal fire test standard for vehicle accessories.  Federal fire tests can be met by using wool - which is naturally a  fire retardant - instead of chemicals.  This is what Uppa Baby will be using for their Henry 2017 model (more info on that car seat later).

Remind me-why is this important? How exactly can flame retardants chemicals in the car seat affect my child?

The problem with flame retardant chemicals is that they do not stick/ bind very well to the product they are used on.... thus, they are released over time. Mostly into dust particles and air


Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the release of these chemicals from products into the vehicle environment

and then

Infants, toddlers and children can be exposed to these chemicals through inhalation, ingestion and dermal (skin) absorption.


The longer your child sits in his/ her car seat the more exposed they are to these chemicals

So, how bad are flame retardant? Is there such a thing as a safer fire retardant?

The short answer: flame retardants are pretty bad (they are known to be carcinogens, hormone disruptors and developmental toxicants.  Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure to these chemical, since their systems are still developing) and we don't really know if there is such a thing a s safe one. Here is a little history on flame retardants (courtesy of the Ecology Center):

In the 1970’s, a chemical known as chlorinated tris, or TDCPP, was used to treat children’s pajamas to make the fabric slower to catch fire. Chlorinated tris was a replacement for a chemical that was found to be carcinogenic. Years later, Chlorinated tris was revealed to be a carcinogen too (and was removed from pajamas.)

Chlorinated tris= proven to be carcinogenic = should never again be used in children's products right?

Well, not exactly.

Fast forward to 2004... In 2004 (after another flame retardant was phased out due to health concerns) Chlorinated tris once again became the go to chemical for a number of products; in furniture, car interiors, tents, and children’s products such as nap mats and crib pads (but not pajamas). Where else? Yes, you guessed it, this proven carcinogenic chemical was also found in two of the 2014 model car seats in this new study. 

This is a good example of how replacement chemicals are sometimes no safer than the banned chemicals they are replacing. Sometimes (as is the case with chlorinated tris) "proven" bad chemicals make a comeback, other times, new chemicals with little to no safety studies are used.  This is why Federal Chemical Safety Laws need to be updated - but that is a whole other issue.

Having said that there are 3 classes of flame retardant
  • Brominated, (also called halogenated) are considered quite toxic and extremely persistence in the environment.
  • Chlorinated (also called halogenated) are considered quite toxic and extremely persistence in the environment.
  • Phosphate-based. These are the replacement chemicals du jour being used to replace the toxic halogenated flame retardants. According to limited research studies, some of these replacements may be safer for human health. Let's cross our fingers, because while laws continue to require flame retardants in car seats these seem to be our safest bet. Some manufacturers, such as Britax and Clek, are opting for these chemicals because so far they seem like the least toxic of the 3.
But, if these chemicals can save my child in a car fire- then isn't that more important?

If the answer were yes, this debate would be quite different. The reality is that car fires move so fast that these fire retardants are no longer considered to be of any help retarding flames in real life scenarios


  1. Hi, thanks for the great overview. Do the other models/colors of Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 use the safer non halogen FR on the fabric and leave out the chemicals in the foam, or is it only the blue base?



    1. Hi Heidi
      The only model that has been tested is the blue color mentioned.... it is probably (The company claims this is ) that other colors/materials use the same class of FR chemicals, however we unfortunately have no way of knowing. .. in the past different car seat company's have claimed things that are not true. Hate that I can't be more of a help in this department - BUT if you want to be 100% sure I would go with the specific make and model mentioned!

    2. Thank you so much for the feedback; it sounds like the safest bet to is to go with the blue. Appreciate all the work you do to guide new parents with purchases!


  2. Thanks for this super helpful post. I am wondering if you know whether the other Maxi Cosi seats in blue fit the same standard? The stroller I am looking at (Mountain Buggy) only adapts to the Maxi-Cosi Mico AP, Maxi-Cosi CabrioFix, and Maxi-Cosi Pebble.

    Also considering the Mountain Buggy protect seat. I contacted the company and they use an "organic phosphate" flame retardant. The covers of the seats are made with rip-stop nylon, a polyester blend, and the inner cushion includes untreated polyurethane foam. They abide by European directives, which I would think would be stricter than US.

  3. My goodness, finding a non-toxic car seat is so hard and has given me so much anxiety. I had received the Graco Click-Connect and went out and purchased the Nuna Pipa as blogs and reviews all across the board rated them as one of the safest in terms of flame retardants.

    Is there anything else that I can do to limit my little one's exposure? Would taking the coverings off and washing them help at all?

    1. I know I cannot wash off the flame retardant, however, is there anything else to be done about the rest of the seat in terms of cleaning to limit exposure?

      Thank you.

    2. Hi Mel- I understand your frustration. Until now it has been a guessing game trying to figure out if the car seats that claimed they were safe really did not have flame retardant chemicals (the answer ended up being NO).... I do have hope that once the UppaBaby's new flame resistant chemical free model comes out, other company's will be following their lead and finally parents will have an easier time finding a car seat that does not expose their young children to these downright toxic chemicals..... however, for parents like us that already have kids and already had to purchase existing car seats the best things to do are:
      1. keep the inside of your car clean and dust free. It is not just the car seat that has flame retardant chemicals, its pretty much all over the interior of your car so clean frequently. (and don't use toxic chemicals with strong fragrance to clean - just wipe with a moist cloth and wash your car seat covers
      2. Keep an eye on your little one and avoid them from placing parts of the car seat in their mouths.
      3. try not to keep your little one sitting in that car seat more than is necessary (ie when you are outside of the car) .

      Hope this helps!

  4. Thank you for all the research you do, it's very informative. I'm torn about what car seat to get. The Uppababy Mesa Henry is pretty steep, especially when you consider getting a matching stroller. I don't like the Britax B-Safe reviews I've read about the seat being too snug and the baby growing out of it early. Maybe going straight to a Britax Marathon? Ugh, what a decision!

  5. What about the Nuna Rava Convertible seat?

    1. Hi Lea
      No independent tests have been conducted on the Nuna Rava so, unfortunately, without that I would not be able to tell you if absolutely no FR chemicals are used. However I took a good look at the Nuna Pipa Lite (that you mentioned on Facebook) and at a min their Leaf Series fabric and padding should not have FR chemicals (The Oeko-Tex 100 certification does ban flame retardant chemicals) however I am not so sure about the new foam they are using. I have reached out to them - I hope to hear back and will let you know when I do!! Thanks for writing in

    2. I forgot to mention that on the company website they make no mention of organic certifications or no flame retardants when talking up the features that the Rava has. This is pretty indicative that they are probably still using flame retardant chemicals to meet legal requirements (similar to the Pipa model that was tested and found to contain brominated flame retardants). The reason the Pipa Lite peaked my interest is that they outright mention "no added flame retardant chemicals" (as I mentioned, I have reached out to them to make sure they clarify if this means the product has absolutely no FR chemicals - ie they are meeting the legal requirements through wool or another technology- or something else!)
      Hope this helps and hope to have a follow up soon

    3. I'm kind of confused about the Pipa Lite: they say no FR ADDED, because they use naturally flame retardant materials. Does that mean the same as Uppababy using wool etc, or is it just tricky wording that means that they get materials that come with FRs pre-applied?

    4. Hi Jasper,
      I agree, it is not very clear. The Pipa Lite (at least their Leaf Series fabric should not have FR chemicals (The Oeko-Tex 100 certification does ban flame retardant chemicals) however I am not so sure about the new foam they are using. I have reached out to them - I hope to hear back and clarify if this means the product has absolutely no FR chemicals - ie they are meeting the legal requirements through wool or another technology- or something else!)

      and will let you know when I do!! Thanks for writing in

    5. Hi there
      I spoke to two different people at Nuna and both (customer service and media contact) confirmed that the Nuna Pipa Lite:

      1. "Yes, PIPA lite has no flame-retardant chemicals in the fabric nor in the foam.
      2. The federal regulation (FMVSS 302) is a performance based requirement. The PIPA lite includes materials that are able to pass this standard without the need to apply any flame-retardant chemicals."

      This is big news. I am trying to find out if we can have it independently tested to confirm these claims (in the past companies have claimed no flame retardants and independent tests have found flame retardant chemicals) so fingers crossed- seems like it could be a great option!

  6. Aida, when you talked to Nuna about the Pipa Lite, was there any more information about the Rava?

    1. No unfortunately not. They did mention this is their only model without flame retardant chemicals though

  7. I wrote to Nuna specifically asking about the Rava and I got this response in less than 5 minutes!

    Nuna's line of gear is made in an eco-friendly and ISO-certified factory and consists of best in
    class materials. We strive to eliminate the use of potentially harmful substances in all of our

    We follow the European REACH Standard, the European EN71 Standard, and the US Consumer Product
    Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) to ensure the highest quality and safety in our products. These
    standards were implemented to improve product quality, product safety and are very specific in
    regard to absence and limitations of potentially harmful substances in products.

    The federal regulation (FMVSS 302) is a performance based requirement. The PIPA™ lite
    series includes materials that are able to pass this standard without the need to apply any
    flame retardant chemicals.
    In order to comply with federal regulations (FMVSS 302), we must apply certain chemicals to enhance flame retardant properties of materials to specific areas on our car seats.

    Our policy is to not apply any flame retardant treatments to areas that come in direct contact with your child. None of the flame retardants we use appear on any banned chemical list in the United States. In addition, we follow strict requirements from the CPSC/CPSIA and ASTM F963 Toy Regulations for Heavy Metals. This includes limits on; Phthalates, Lead, Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Chromium, Mercury, Selenium, Formaldehyde and other potentially harmful substances.

    Necessary to meet Federal Law FMVSS 302, flame retardants are applied to the internal foam of the main seat pad along with a few specific areas.

    • Pipa: the Dream Drape™, outer seat panel and canopy, harness cover binding
    • Rava: Wedge covering, Seat cover binding
    • Aace: Back pocket of backrest, back of seat pad pocket, seat cover binding

    Our flame retardant is a proprietary formula from the ammonium polyphosphate family and does not contain halogenated FR including: PBB, PBDE or Bromine.

    We do not treat with any Chlorinated Tris: TCEP, TPP, TOCP, TCPP, TDCPP, TDBPP, TBBPA.

    Best Regards,

    Team Nuna

  8. Thank you all so much for all this research!!

  9. thank you for this!! because of Food Babes blog/ advice i bought the Nuna Pipa Infant carseat and used it for a full year and a few months for my baby! i thought it was safe :( i wish i could sue her.. so angry and it also cost a pretty penny.