I didn’t learn about the flame retardants (FRs) in carseats until after we had purchased the Chicco Keyfit30. Even if I had known about them, I probably would have gone with the same one. The thing is, it seems there might be a couple companies out there without harmful FR, but these are usually incredibly expensive, and it seems there is no guarantee that the seats don’t contain these FR. Then, there is the safety issue. As of June 2014, Consumer Reports ranked the Chicco Keyfit30 as the highest rated infant carseat. I couldn’t find any info from Consumer Reports on any of the other models that say they don’t use FR, except the Orbit Baby G2, and Consumer Reports did not give its safety measures a glowing rec.
It’s easy to go to Consumer Reports and find out what they say. It’s a heck of a lot harder to figure out which companies are using which toxins in car seats. Orbit Baby’s statement is direct and to the point: their fabrics are certified to the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and their car seats do not contain brominated and chlorinated flame retardants and chemicals. But then, in 2011, HealthyStuff.org did a study and found such toxins in the Orbit Baby car seats. Orbit responded emphatically that their seats do not contain these chemicals and that HealthyStuff’s methods were imprecise and unreliable. Diono has also stated their Storm and Rugby models of the Radian R series do not contain any FR – not in the fabrics or in the foam. But… there are reports that people have had their seats tested and found that these models DO contain FR.
Clek is another company stating that as of February 2014, none of their carseats contain bromine or chlorine-based FR. They use a “fluoro-based” FR and fabrics from Crypton Super Fabrics, which “repel moisture, bacteria and stains” and contain no formaldehyde. The fabrics are also Green Guard Select Certified. When I emailed them and asked more about the FR they use, they told me they “do not know that exact fire retardants that are used and only know of the ones we do not use that are harmful…”
Of course, in 2012, Britax and Graco committed to making car seats without these harmful chemicals. The result seems to have been that they substituted other harmful toxins in place of the old ones. Sigh. I recently emailed these companies to ask if they are still using FR. On June 16, 2014, I heard back from Graco, and they pretty much gave me a non-response: “… our finished products comply with the applicable substance bans…. ‘no one size fits all’ flame retardant…. proprietary compounds…” blah blah. (If you want the full response, I’ll post it, but they gave me no real info.) I’ve emailed Britax twice but have yet to hear back.
So, what can we do? Well, it just so happens that Duke University is testing all kinds of foam for chemicals. You just cut a piece of the foam you want tested and mail it in. They only accept so many samples per month, so if you go to their website and fill out the form, and they tell you they’re not accepting samples at this time, wait until the first of the next month and try again. Here is the website to learn more about the study and how to submit the samples: http://foam.pratt.duke.edu/home.
Also, HealthyStuff.org has started to test car seats again. They are fundraising now, so if you’re feeling generous, you can donate on their site.
Until enough tests are done (whether through Duke or HealthyStuff), it’s hard to know which companies have the fewest toxins in their seats. It does seem like if you have the money for it, Clek and Orbit (possibly Diono) are making the most progress in that area and might be the way to go (assuming you’ve checked out their safety ratings as well – I have not done this!).