The Car Seat Conundrum

Car seats save lives. So why should they come with a chemical downside?

We need a second car seat for Maya. I worked on auto safety issues for a number of years, and am very particular about car seats. (See my Persnickety Letters on Products post for an amusingly long exchange with a nice man from Sweden who was trying to help me compare U.S. and European safety and chemical rules. More on that in another post.)

Due to their good ratings from Consumer Reports, the fact that they are rear-facing for longer than other car seats on the market (which is critical to preventing neck injury in frontal crashes, the most common kind of car crashes), and that they also have good side-impact protection, we own a Britax Advocate 70 CS, new when Maya was born in 2010. It is a convertible infant-to-toddler seat with a hefty pricetag, but you only need to buy one, and it comes in a cute cow pattern, Cowmooflage. LOL.

But then there are the chemical flame retardants. Britax is among the worst in this category. And the study in 2011 found lead in the buckle. Then I read a recent announcement that Britax will phase out the use of harmful flame retardants by the end of 2012. That’s great news, and shows the power of Healthy Stuff’s studies in shining a light on this issue.

I also checked out Orbits, the other brand without chemicals, but it gets mixed reviews from parents for comfort and stability. And the base and seat are around $600. Whew.

So, what to do now?? Well, someone on our parents’ listserv is selling a fairly new Britax for $75 — I think I’ll get that one for now rather than something new, and hold out for the end of this year, when we can at last buy a Britax seat without flame retardants in it.

Just another sub-optimal waiting game, until the market allows parents to make a smarter and healthier choice. And then more stuff for the landfill, when we will replace our two current seats with ones that don’t have chemicals in them. (Will post in the future about the ethical dilemmas involved in reselling “toxic” baby stuff…)

In the meantime, I’ll air out the car when we get in, won’t let her hang out in the car seat unnecessarily, and wash her hands after we drive a while. (There are also covers you can buy, but I’m not so clear that they will fit well, and we don’t have one.) Even with all that, sometimes she’s a sweaty mess back there. And I know too much to think its ok.

If other folks have tips on this, I’d love to hear them!