Monday, August 8, 2011

Protect Your Child from Carseat Toxins

About a week ago, it seems that the topic of toxins in carseats became a popular topic online, with many major media sources reporting on Healthy Stuff’s test results.

Christie Haskell on the Stir wrote an excellent article on the current issue of toxins in carseats. She encourages us to look at the big picture about chemicals, their purposes and the dangers of not using a seat correctly.

Since this topic went viral, I have read many comments and received many questions concerning ways to reduce exposure or clean the carseats. Many of these comments included ideas that could compromise the safety of the carseat in a collision. The continued fear and confusion surrounding this issue has prompted me to devote an article on safe ways to protect your child from toxins in carseats.

First, some perspective:

I absolutely support parents who want to learn more about the potential toxins present in carseats (and anywhere). And I absolutely support making choices to reduce exposure to toxins in our environment. I also support encouraging the carseat industry to reduce chemical use or choose safer alternatives when possible. I am not in any way saying the carseat industry should get a free pass on toxins just because carseats are good. I have used the healthystuff website since I was pregnant with my first child and I think other parents should save it as a resource, too. (Incidentally, is another excellent site for finding toxins in products).

That being said, I want to make sure parents have a broad perspective. Unless you have been carefully reviewing everything that passes into your house (and I know parents who do this, bravo) it’s very likely that a hundred and one items in your own house are more toxic than your child’s carseat. For example, the mattress your child sleeps on contains more chemicals than your child’s carseat. The toy your child plays with contains more plastics and lead than your child’s carseat. The carpet your child crawls on every day lets off more fumes than your child’s carseat cover. The cute pjs you dress your child in every night contain more fire retardant than your child’s carseat.

For some people, due to their consistent research, the above isn’t true and reducing carseat exposure will simply be another step. For most of us, however, I bet it is true, and something to think about before we panic about carseats. I’ve always said: change your life one step at a time and start with the WORST offender. The worst offender in your life is probably not the carseat. It’s probably the tap water, the baby shampoo, the plastic toys, or the mattress/furniture. So before you do anything drastic, make sure your energy goes to the worst area for the most improvement.

So, what CAN you do when it comes to toxins in carseats?

1) Yes, definitely still read about toxin ratings while carseat shopping. Just do not make them your primary or only factor. A carseat is only worth buying if it fits into your car correctly and fits your child correctly. Ensure the carseat you are considering meets those two requirements and then look at toxin ratings to pick the best cover/company.

2) A common way to reduce toxin exposure in vehicles, flooring, furniture and carseats is to offgas, also called outgassing. A particularly good time to offgas a carseat is during the pregnancy. Consider it part of preparing for the new arrival. Remove the box, plastic and other packaging, then place the carseat in a warm area such as a garage, shed or even the car. Do NOT put the carseat in a small, enclosed space such as a car trunk. Do NOT heat the carseat. Warm, not baked! It needs room to warm up and air out.

Allow the carseat to warm up, which breaks down excess chemicals, causing them to offgas. Air out the storage area and expose the seat to indirect sunlight frequently to encourage better offgassing. How long to do this has not been adequately determined, but a good rule of thumb is to sniff the seat. If you do not detect a strong “new carseat odor” then it is probably offgassed sufficiently.

3) After offgassing, gently wipe down the harness, clips and plastic molding but take care to NOT soak, saturate or scrub. You can also periodically wipe down the seat, especially during hot weather. Make it an additional step when cleaning out the car. This will remove any chemical residue on the surface of the seat. But again, do NOT soak or saturate the seat in water/detergents. And if you want to wash the carseat cover, follow the manufacturer directions EXACTLY.

4) While using the carseat, take 60 seconds to air out the vehicle before getting in and driving. This is something most people should do, especially in new/newer cars, as cars have chemicals, too. Here’s my routine: Go out to the car, open the driver’s door, start the engine, blast the a/c, then open all the other car doors. Then buckle in the kids. By the time I close up the doors and buckle myself in, our car is aired out and cooled down for the trip.

Remember: NEVER Soak the harness, or wash the seat or cover with unapproved substances or in unapproved ways. NEVER replace the clip with another company’s clip, or refuse to use it at all. NEVER replace the cover with another company’s cover or a handmade cover. NEVER install a cover/barrier over the original cover. All of these things could truly compromise the safety and function of the carseat and increase the risk of injury to your child in a collision. They can also void your manufacturer warranty or void an insurance claim after a collision. Don't believe me? Read what the actual manufacturers have to say.

There is a reason chemicals are present in your child's carseat:

Read the story here:

"The best carseat is the one that you can install correctly into your car every time and the one that your child can ride in comfortably and securely every time. Brand, price, marketing, cup holders, and toxin rating will not protect your child if the seat is installed incorrectly or used incorrectly. "

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