Monday, December 3, 2018

2018/2019 Non-Toxic Car Seat Buying Guide : The Good, The Bad and the (Really) Ugly

photo redit:  ClekUSA

* PLease note:  There is an Updated post dated 12/13/2019

A new study by the Ecology Center was released today about the state of flame retardants in our children’s car seats. The Ecology Center has been the main independent source of chemical testing in car seats for the past 10 years. This year, they collaborated with researchers from Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame to incorporate detailed analytical results which were also published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. 

What's NEW in 2018

The Good- no- GREAT news

  • For the first time a convertible car seat, for older children, is available without added flame retardants : this is the Clek Fllo - Mammoth 

  • Two infant car seats are available without toxic flame retardants UPPAbaby MESA - Jordan and Henry models (infant) and Nuna Pipa Lite - Fog (infant). 
Unfortunately, these non-toxic car seats do not come cheap- all of them cost $350 or higher.

The Bad News

  • 80% of the seats tested this year (all 2018 models) contained hazardous flame retardant chemicals 

  • 50% contained hazardous PFAS chemicals on the fabric. this was the first year the car seats were also tested for fluorinated chemicals (PFASs- aka- chemicals similarly structured to the infamous ‘Teflon chemical’ that are stain and water resistant). These chemicals have been linked to elevated risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disorders, high cholesterol, and cancer as well as other adverse health effects. YOU CAN READ MORE HERE 

  • While there are fewer car seats using brominated flame retardants than in previous years, (a good thing since these have been known as the ‘worse’ kinds of fire retardant chemicals), there is unfortunately an increase in the use of phosphorus-based flame retardants. The problem is that some of these substitute phosphorus-based flame retardants, which were "thought " to be safer, are now also shown significant endocrine and developmental toxicity. 
Here are the results of all the car seats tested:
Low Concern/ I recommend 
 (no flame retardant or fluorinated chemicals) 

Clek- Fllo Mammoth (convertible) 

Nuna Pipa Lite - Fog (infant) 

 (infant ) 

**Clek’s chemical free Mammoth fabric is also available both Clek’s Foonf, Fllo and Oobr booster

** 2018 UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat - Henry (Blue Marl) Merino Wool Version/Naturally Fire Retardant   was tested last year and fund to also be flame retardant free

Moderate Concern: 

These use phosphorus based flame retardant chemicals. I would only purchase these if budget is an issue. Keep inside of your car and car seat free from dust and try not to keep baby sitting in car seat for extended periods of time 

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3 in 1- Shadow (convertible) 

These following car seats also made their ‘moderate concern’ list however I do not recommend them since they were found to contain fluorinated (ie: stain or water proofing) chemicals.

Britax- Roundabaout G4.1- Luna (convertible) 

Clek- Foonf Thunder (convertible) 

High Concern 
Phosphorous based flame retardants and bromine in at least two components. Most (except Graco contender 65 and Eddie Bauer XRS65) contain fluorinated substances 

Baby Trend EZ Flex Loc- Morning Mist (infant) 

Chicco Keyfit 30- Regatta (infant) 

Eddie Baeuer XRS 65 Viewpoint (convertible0 

Evenflo Nurture Blake (infant) 

Evenflo SureRide DLX- Paxton (convertible) 

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 - Kyte (infant) 

Nuna- Pipa- Graphite (infant) 

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 and Clek uses.

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  safe one. 

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. Until recently, these replacements were thought to be safer for human health. However, studies are showing many of them to be strong endocrine disruptors and links to developmental toxicity

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

Bottom line?  There are now safer car seats available- if possible choose those for your little ones.

If you want to push to change our outdated laws consider signing this Change,org petition:

Ecology Center and public health groups from across the country are united in an effort to update the government’s decades-old flammability standards, by publicly calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to update their flammability standards in this petition, so more parents can have toxic-free car seats and less children are exposed to these unnecessary toxic hazards.

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  1. Thanks for this article! What about the Maxi Cozi convertible car seat as a non-toxic one? I've seen it listed before (can't remember if it was here or elsewhere), but you don't list it in this article!

    1. Hi! in 2016only the Uppa BabyHenry was made of wool and without any flame retardant chemicals. At that time due to lack of other options and also because halogenated flame retardants were still kind of new and had not been studied it was thought that they were a 'better' option to other chemicals. That is why the Maxi Cosi and Britax were listed under the safer options available.

      This year there are three brands making completely flame retardant chemical free car seats so those are really the safest. REgarding Maxi Cosi and Britax science is now showing that non halogen FR might still pose health risks (probably not as bad as their cousin chemicals but still not 100% safe).

      This can be so frustrating - as a country substitute chemicals (like the non halogen FR chemicals maxi cosi used) are considered safe and do not have to be proven unsafe before they are used. Companies are free to try out new chemicals that have no scientifically proved safety record. With time we find out that maybe they are not as great as they hoped they were. that is why, ultimately the market shift to wool (ie no chemcials used at all) is a good one.

  2. Does the nuna pipa lite lx aspen contain flame retardants?

  3. I read this list and purchased the Clek Fllo Mamoth and when I opened the box the car seat was in a bag. I opened the bag and was almost knocked over by the chemical smell. It smells like formaldehyde so I’m assuming they sprayed it in the bag before shipping? Either way I feel so disappointed and feel like I’m right back at square one since this was the only one recommended to bigger kids. I left it out for a couple hours but the fabric still smells so badly that I plan on returning it. Just thought I should let everyone know :(

    1. I'm sorry to hear that! As on owner of two Clek Fllo carseats I really trust Clek. I seriously doubt they would spray formaldehyde in the bag. For what purpose? Have you contacted Clek about the smell? I'd be curious to know what their response is. If you hear from them, please post their response for the rest of us doing research on this topic. I will say that I own two Clek Fllo carseats in the Noir fabric and never noticed a chemical smell. My carseats are the 2017 model and one is the 2018 model.

    2. That is so so strange- were you able to call the company and ask? I have not heard of anyone complain but would also be worried....

    3. I just got my 2018 clek foonf with flamingo color. It is made on Feb 08 2019. I also noticed the bad chemical smell right after I opened the plastic bag which was covering the car seat. I was reading the manual right beside of it, and it gave me headache. I am going to let it sit for few days to see how it goes... My 2018 mesa did not smell like this... Quite frustrated..

  4. What about the new Nuna carseat that just came out for 2019? Would you put that in the same category as the Clek Mammouth? And to be clear, you ONLY recommend the Clek in Mammouth fabric? Thank you!

    1. Just seeing this now- the only independent tests available show that only Clek's mammoth fabric is flame retardant chemical free...... Nuna as a company has said that all of their fabrics are FR chemical free but hte only one independently confirmed is the one I mentioned in the article!

  5. Funny the Nuna Pipa was marketed in 2016 as a non toxic option at that time. Disappointed it's now on ever blog as one of the most toxic. Because of that I would not recommend nuna but I already got the gear. What do you think of the PIPA™ Flame Retardant Free Car Seat & Base? It's $150 cheaper than the lite.

  6. They don't make Nuna Pipa Lite in Fog any more would you still recommend the lite? They say all the infant seats are FR free. I already have their stroller and trying to get car seat without FR. Where did you find the study that tested fabric? Thanks!