New Children’s Car Seat Ratings & Report Shows Outdated Federal Flammability Standard Unnecessarily Exposes Lower Income Children to Toxic Chemicals

ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The Ecology Center published a new report, Toxic Inequities; How an Outdated Standard Leads to Toxics in Low-Cost Children’s Car Seats, indicating an upward trend in the number of car seats free of flame retardants and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), but many are still cost-prohibitive due to an antiquated U.S. flammability standard. Full report is available at

In their 2022 study, the Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff Lab tested 25 car seats, including three from the European Union, from 11 different brands for flame retardants and PFAS. Four of the car seats came bundled with matching strollers, which were also tested.

U.S. car seat companies have made significant achievements in reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals in the last five years. In 2016 there were no flame retardant-free children’s car seats available. Today there are over 40 such models from eight different brands. 

"We are encouraged that so many companies have voluntarily made car seats without flame retardants, but the most affordable car seats still contain these chemicals, pointing to the need to update federal guidelines," said the Ecology Center’s Senior Scientist Gillian Miller, PhD.

Companies add flame retardants to car seats as a cost-effective way to meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) outdated flammability standard which was created in 1970 largely in response to fires started by cigarettes. 

"In my 40 years on the Boston Fire Department, I have responded to hundreds of car fires and hundreds of vehicle accidents. In my experience, supported by statistics, vehicle fires seldom are started by cigarettes, and seldom start in seating material. Putting flame retardants in seating would appear to provide no meaningful safety benefit to an occupant and we are unnecessarily exposing children and firefighters to hazards," stated Joseph (Jay) Fleming, member of the Boston Fire Department and Boston Local 718 for more than 40 years, including 25 years as a Deputy Chief and 18 years as a Field Deputy.

Maxi-Cosi is one car seat company that has risen to the challenge of innovating flame retardant-free car seats and offers the most affordable convertible car seat on the market. "Maxi-Cosi PureCosi Car Seats are able to meet the flammability standard through the use of premium fabrics and higher density foams. These materials are more costly than those that meet with flame retardant additives," said Tim Edwards, Senior Manager of Lab and Regulatory Compliance for the Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc, the producer of Maxi-Cosi car seats. "Lower price point car seat brands would be challenged to maintain their competitive position with the use of those premium materials."

Federal regulators have not been able to show a meaningful safety benefit from requiring compliance with the federal flammability standard. The Ecology Center, along with the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), fire fighters and dozens of environmental health organizations have issued a letter urging NHTSA and the Department of Transportation to update its federal flammability standards and have started a petition on

There are currently no infant or convertible car seats sold in the U.S. selling for less than $120 that are both flame retardant-free and PFAS-free. The report concludes that parents and families looking for the most affordable children’s products are largely bearing the brunt of toxic chemical exposure. 

"Parents shouldn’t have to strap their child into a car seat that exposes them to toxic chemicals," said Arlene Blum, Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "Car seats are critical for child safety, which makes this health inequity especially problematic. It’s urgent that the Transportation Department update the ineffective standard that causes this problem."

Four of the tested U.S. seats were found to contain likely PFAS, chemicals added to make the seat pad resistant to water and stains. The Ecology Center urges all companies to eliminate PFAS from their products.

The Ecology Center reminds parents that child car seats are required by law and are absolutely essential for crash safety. Please, always install and use a car seat for a child, regardless of any chemical concerns. 

Media Contact:

Jeff Gearhart


SOURCE Ecology Center