Experts at the nonprofit Michigan-based Ecology Center found that 75 percent of child car seats contain traces of chemicals that are toxic or harmful. The study published by Healthystuff.org came up with the finding after testing 15 car seats for halogenated flame retardants and nonhalogenated organophosphate flame retardants, which are both detrimental to health.

The researchers tested 2014-model car seats through a mass spectrometry/gas chromatography technique, which enables them to identify the vapors and compounds present. The car seats were tested for the presence of chemicals including arsenic, lead, bromine, chlorine and other heavy metals. In the end, the researchers confirmed that none of the tested car seats are free from harmful substances.

One particular study finding that draws attention is the presence of chlorine and bromine, as these are incorporated in flame retardants. These substances are associated with several health conditions as its potency is considered long-term and the effects remain inside the body. The harmful chemicals are said to be released faster when exposed to UV rays and heat. The potential health effects linked to the substances identified include thyroid problems, reduced fertility, cancer, behavioral alterations, learning difficulties and memory disturbances.

"Car seats save lives. It's absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving, regardless of the rating a particular seat received at HealthyStuff.org," says Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center. "However, our research shows that some car seats contain more harmful chemicals than others. The best-rated companies in our study, Britax and Clek, have been making great strides to produce healthier products."

The team tested car seats from different brands. The car seats that emerged as the most favorable are Britax's 2014-2015 Marathon Convertible and Frontier car seats, and Clek's Foonf convertible car seat. Meanwhile, the car seat with the worst rating is Graco's My Size 65 convertible car seat and Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1. Healthstuff.org responds to this by starting a petition to stop Graco's use of hazardous flame retardants.

Other brands tested in the study include Orbit Baby, Chicco, Eddie Bauer, Peg Perego, Cybex, Evenflo, Safety First and Harmony Juvenile.

Photo: Jonathan Brodsky | Flickr

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