Toxic Chemicals in Child Car Seats, What You Need to Know

September 24, 2011 — By

Week four of WeMakeItSafer’s celebration of Baby Safety Month is focused on chemical exposure, and today, September 24th, is National Car Seat Check Day! To honor both, we are talking about dangerous chemicals found in car seats – probably not something you’ve thought much about.

Your baby can spend a lot of time in his or her car seat, especially an infant carrier designed to be used outside the vehicle as well as on the road. Additionally, a child’s face is often resting against the car seat, particularly, on those long, slumbering rides to grandma’s house.

So what is in the fabrics, plastics and cushioning that our babies are resting on?

In a recent study, the Ecology Center tested 150 2011-model cars seats and found that 60% contained one or more of bromine, chlorine, lead, other heavy metals and allergens. These substances have been linked to allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.

Although these findings are alarming, we do want to emphasize that, in many instances the chemicals found were in trace amounts. Further, your baby must be safely and properly secured in his or her car seat, regardless of how well your model fared in the study.  The dangers of not being properly secured in a car seat outweigh the risks of chemical exposure.

That being said, if you are purchasing a new car seat or have the means to replace a current one, we recommend choosing a car seat that does not contain these chemicals. You can find the results of the study here.

If you will not be purchasing a new car seat, there are some things you can do to mitigate your child’s exposure to to these chemicals. According the Ecology Center, “Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals and possibly increase their toxicity.” Therefore, try to park in the shade. Also, placing a towel or blanket over the carseat can protect it from direct sunlight when shade is unavailable. Just be sure to remove the towel and put it far out of Baby’s reach when he or she is in the car seat.

Additionally, if the car seat cover is washable, remove it and wash according to the manufacturer’s instructions as frequently as possible, but especially before the first use. This could help remove some of the chemical residue left over from manufacturing or that leaches from the car seat over time.

Baby Safety Month Day 24 Tasks: Mind your car seat: Check the Ecology Center list; wash the cover; pack a towel; park in the shade.

And, as a bonus, visit the NHTSA’s Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator to find an installation & fit inspection station near you.


Baby Safety Month –  Week 4 Checklist: Chemical Exposure

Sept.  22 Sept.  23 Sept. 24 Sept.25 Sept. 26 Sept. 27 Sept. 28

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Be BPA Aware

Mind Your Car Seat

Check the Color of Baby’s Food

Bust the Dust!

Get Cookin’

Register Baby’s Stuff!



  1. The car seat is an essential piece of child safety equipment. Find out everything you need to know about car safety seats for your child.

  2. Hi,
    I have read some people’s comments saying that the Britax Marathon 70 Convertible Car Seat actually came out first (worst) for chemical substance release when in heated environments. That’s actually one of the reasons why I gave the seat a lower score than the Graco Nautilus. Can you confirm this?

    • admin says:

      If you email the Ecology Center they may be able to give you more information on the tests they conducted and the scores under relative conditions.