03 Jul, 2024

Non-Toxic Car Seat and FR Free Explained by Manufacturers

Non-Toxic Car Seat and FR Free Explained by Manufacturers

Fabric

Introduction

As a textile manufacturer specializing in producing flame retardant free fabrics, we know about how fabrics are made and what makes infant car seats tested non-toxic or flame retardant free. And we're here to help you understand what non-toxic car seats are and how they qualify as such. Our experts have put together all the key information below. Let’s learn more about it!
 

What Are the Brands that Use Non-Toxic Car Seats?

We have collaborated with several infant car seat brands such as Nuna, Uppababy, Britax, Chicco, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, etc. Below are the infant car seat models that are flame retardant free. (The order does not indicate which brand is better.)
 

1. Nuna

Below are Nuna's car seats that are tested to be free from flame retardant and PFAS:

  • Pipa Car Seats

  • Rava and EXEC Car Seats

  • Aace Car Seat
 

2. Clek

Clek offers flame retardant-free car seats in two merino wool fabric options:

  • Mammoth

  • Full Moon/Twilight (introduced in 2020)
 

3. UPPAbaby

The UPPAbaby Mesa infant car seats in the "Jordan" and "Henry" color options are flame retardant free.   

 

4. Britax

Britax SafeWash line has a flame retardant free cover. The SafeWash fabric is synthetic and is free of PFAs!

 

5. Chicco

Chicco’s ClearTex line is flame retardant free! It is also free of PFAs and the fabric is polyester.

 

6. Maxi-Cosi

The PureCosi line is flame retardant free, and its fabric is also free of PFAs.

​​​​​Understanding Non-Toxic Car Seats

Many of us already know that baby car seats aren't completely safe. These seats often contain chemicals to make them waterproof and flame-resistant. Flame retardants, in particular, have been found to be harmful to children, prompting parents to seek out non-toxic alternatives.
 

What are non-toxic car seats?

Typically, a “non-toxic car seat” is designed to be tested chemical-free. Some also call non-toxic car seats “flame retardant-free car seats”. 

However, we would define non-toxic car seats as products that go a step further by avoiding a broader range of chemicals while flame retardant-free car seats specifically focus on flame retardant free. Generally, non toxic car seats avoid using not only flame retardant, but PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) as well.

 

What is PFAS?

PFAS are a large group of man-made chemicals known for their ability to resist water. These substances, often called “forever chemicals”, don't break down in the environment and can build up over time. Even worse, they can pose serious risks to babies, making them a concern for parents.

 

Non-toxic car seats vs. regular car seats

Non-toxic car seats differ from regular car seats primarily in their use of chemicals and materials. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences:
 

Aspect

Regular Car Seats

Non-Toxic Car Seats

Chemical Use

Often treated with harmful chemicals like flame retardants.    

Minimize or avoid harmful chemicals; use safer alternatives.

Material Safety

May contain VOCs, phthalates, and heavy metals.    

Focus on materials that do not emit VOCs and are free from phthalates and heavy metals.

Health Impact

Chemicals used can lead to health issues such as respiratory problems and developmental delays.    

Designed to reduce health risks by avoiding harmful chemicals.

Environmental Impact

Production and disposal can negatively affect the environment.    

Typically more eco-friendly, with sustainable materials and practices.

 

1. Chemical Use

  • Regular Car Seats: Often treated with chemicals for flame resistance, water repellency, and durability. Common chemicals include brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, which have been linked to various health issues.
 
  • Non-Toxic Car Seats: Avoid or minimize the use of harmful chemicals. Manufacturers may opt for materials that are naturally flame-resistant, such as wool, or use safer alternatives like fabrics tested to be chemical-free and meet federal safety flammability standards that don’t pose health risks.
 

2. Material Safety

  • Regular Car Seats: Materials used might release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or contain phthalates and heavy metals, which can be harmful when inhaled or ingested over time.
  • Non-Toxic Car Seats: Focus on safer, often organic materials that do not emit VOCs and are free from phthalates and heavy metals. This makes them safer for direct and prolonged contact with children.
 

3. Health Impact

  • Regular Car Seats: The chemicals used can contribute to developmental delays, respiratory problems, and other health issues in children due to prolonged exposure.
 
  • Non-Toxic Car Seats: Designed to reduce or eliminate exposure to harmful chemicals, thereby lowering the risk of health problems associated with chemical exposure.
 

4. Environmental Impact

  • Regular Car Seats: The production and disposal of chemically treated car seats can have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Non-Toxic Car Seats: Often made with sustainable practices in mind, reducing the environmental footprint from production to disposal.


Flame retardants in Infant Car Seats

 

What is flame retardant?

Flame retardants are chemicals added to materials, such as textiles and plastics, to prevent or slow the spread of fire. These substances are often used in a variety of consumer products, including furniture, baby strollers and infant car seats, to meet fire safety standards. The purpose of flame retardants is to increase the amount of time it takes for an item to catch fire, thereby providing extra time to escape. However, some types of flame retardants have been linked to health and environmental concerns, leading to calls for safer alternatives.
 

Why is it used in infant car seats? 

Let's start with polyurethane, or PU for short. It's commonly added to fabrics to boost their durability and flexibility. However, polyurethane has a downside—it can be flammable. To address this, manufacturers often incorporate flame retardants into infant car seats. This helps slow down the burning process, making PU-coated fabrics less likely to catch fire quickly. By doing so, these car seats can also meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 302–Flammability of Interior Materials.
 

Is there a solution? Yes. Fortunately, textile manufacturers have developed a new type of fabric with a PU coating that is tested to be chemical-free and meets federal safety flammability standards.
 

Common Types of flame retardants in textiles

Flame retardants used in textiles have several types, each with different chemical properties and uses. Here's a breakdown of the main types of flame retardants:
 

1. Halogenated flame retardants

  • Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)

These are among the most common and include substances like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). They are used in electronics, textiles, and furniture, but due to environmental and health concerns, their use is decreasing, and they are being phased out in many regions.

 
  • Chlorinated Flame Retardants

These include chemicals like chlorinated paraffins, which are used in rubber, textiles, and plastics. Similar to brominated versions, they are effective but have raised environmental and health concerns.
 

2. Phosphorus-based Flame Retardants

These are considered more environmentally friendly and include organophosphates and red phosphorus. They have been used as alternatives to the halogenated flame retardants. While they're often considered to be "less toxic", they're not entirely non-toxic or harmless. Recent studies have raised concerns, suggesting links to endocrine disruption and potential issues with development. 
 

Currently, if you send fabrics to SGS/ITS for testing to check for flame retardants, they will report the results as N/A as long as the phosphorus levels in the fabrics are below 1,000 parts per million (ppm).
 

How toxic flame retardant is to babies?

Flame retardants can be particularly harmful to babies because their bodies are still developing, making them more sensitive to chemical exposure. Here are some concerns linked to these chemicals:

 

1. Developmental Issues

Some flame retardants can interfere with a baby's cognitive and motor development.

 

2. Hormone Disruption

These chemicals can mess with the endocrine system, potentially affecting thyroid function and hormone levels

 

3. Weakened Immune System

Exposure to certain flame retardants might make it harder for babies to fight off infections and could impact how well vaccines work for them.

 

4. Cancer Risk

There's also some concern that long-term exposure to certain types of flame retardants might increase the risk of cancer.

 

Because of these potential risks, there's a growing push to minimize the use of flame retardants in products that babies frequently use, such as infant car seats and baby strollers.

 

Benefits of Non-Toxic Car Seats

 

Health and Safety

1. Less Exposure to Harmful Chemicals

Non-toxic car seats are tested to be free from dangerous substances like flame retardants and PFAS, which have been linked to various health issues. By keeping these chemicals away from kids, we help protect them from potential health problems down the line.

 

2. Fewer Allergic Reactions and Skin Issues

Without harsh chemicals, these car seats are kinder to sensitive skin and less likely to cause allergies or irritation, which is great news for little ones with sensitive skin.

 

3. Cleaner Air Inside the Car

Infant car seats that don’t give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) help maintain cleaner air inside your car. This means children breathe in fewer pollutants, which can help prevent respiratory problems.

 

4. Better Long-term Health

Limiting early exposure to certain chemicals can help avoid health issues that might show up later in life, such as hormonal imbalances or even an increased risk of some cancers.

 

5. Healthier Growth and Development

Keeping endocrine-disrupting chemicals at bay means children have a better chance to grow and develop without these harmful influences.

 

Environmental Impact

Using non-toxic car seats brings several environmental benefits that make them a greener choice. Here’s how they help:

 

1. Less Chemical Pollution

By avoiding harmful chemicals like flame retardants and PFAS, non-toxic car seats reduce the amount of chemical pollution released during their production, use, and disposal.

 

2. Cleaner Manufacturing

The process to make non-toxic car seats usually involves less harmful substances, which means it's safer for the environment. This helps prevent air, water, and soil pollution.

 

3. Better Biodegradability

Non-toxic car seats often use more natural materials that break down more easily in the environment when they’re no longer in use. This means they’re less likely to leave behind harmful residues.

 

4. Promotion of Greener Practices

The demand for non-toxic car seats can push manufacturers towards adopting sustainable practices more broadly, leading to better environmental responsibility in the industry.

 

5. Healthier Ecosystems

Fewer chemicals in the environment mean healthier ecosystems and better conditions for wildlife, which can suffer from exposure to pollutants.

  

How to Identify Non-Toxic Car Seats

 

1. Non-Toxic Dyes

They use dyes that are free from harmful chemicals, such as carcinogenic azo dyes, making them safer for both skin contact and the environment.

 

2. Hypoallergenic

These fabrics are made to minimize the risk of allergic reactions. They avoid common allergens like nickel and latex, and keep chemical residues to a minimum.

 

3. Organic Materials

Many safe fabrics are crafted from organic materials, grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, which makes them gentler on your skin and better for the planet.

 

4. Chemical-Free Finish

They typically skip the harsh chemical finishes used for properties like wrinkle or static resistance, avoiding substances like formaldehyde.

 

5. Safe Flame Resistance

For safety without the toxins, these fabrics use naturally flame-resistant materials or special weaving techniques to keep you safe from the fire and flame retardants.
 

Certifications to Look For

Note that fabrics labeled with the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification have already passed safety tests for harmful substances. This means having the GREENGUARD Gold certification isn't necessary, as the OEKO-TEX label is enough to ensure the fabric's safety.

 

Final thoughts on non toxic car seat

Finding a truly non-toxic car seat can be quite a challenge. Chemicals are pervasive, and there are strict regulations to adhere to. However, there are several brands in the market now that are leading the way in reducing health risks for babies by innovating safer products.

 

If you're unsure about the safety features of a car seat, it's a good idea to contact these brands directly. They can inform you whether their car seats are tested to be flame retardant free. Alternatively, you could look for car seats with fabrics tested to be chemical-free by using special weaving techniques, while still meeting federal safety flammability standards.

 

And if you're part of an infant car seat company and are curious about using safer fabrics for your products, feel free to reach out to Yu-City for advice from our experts!
 

FAQs

 

1. Are flame retardant free car seats safe?
 

Yes, flame retardant free car seats are safe. They meet all required safety standards without the use of chemicals that are added to resist fire. Many parents choose these to avoid potential chemical exposure.

 

2. What does "flame retardant free" mean?
 

"Flame retardant free" means that the product, such as an infant car seat, is not tested to be containing chemicals used to slow down the spread of fire. These chemicals are often excluded or reduced to decrease the risk of toxic exposure.

 

3. How important is a flame-retardant free car seat?
 

A flame-retardant free car seat is quite important for parents who are concerned about chemical exposure. Reducing the amount of flame retardant chemicals in an infant car seat can potentially lower the risk of health issues associated with these substances.

 

4. Is Nuna fire retardant free?
 

Nuna has made efforts to remove fire retardants from many of their car seat models, especially in regions where laws allow such modifications. Here are some of their flame retardant free infant car seats: 

 

It’s best to review the specifications of the specific Nuna model you’re interested in or reach out to Nuna for confirmation!

 

5. How to remove flame retardant from a car seat?
 

It's actually quite challenging to remove flame retardants from a car seat once they've been applied, as these chemicals are integrated into the materials during manufacturing. The better approach is to choose a car seat that is specifically marketed as being flame retardant free.

 

6. Why get a flame retardant free car seat?

Choosing a flame retardant free car seat can minimize your child’s exposure to certain chemicals that might be harmful. This is particularly significant for parents concerned about the potential health risks these chemicals might pose, such as allergies, skin irritation, or other more serious health issues.


7. Is Britax flame retardant free?

Yes! Britax SafeWash has a flame retardant free cover! The SafeWash line was released in 2019, and its fabric is free of PFAs. Here are some of the infant car seats in the SafeWash line: 

1. B-Safe Gen2 Infant Car Seat, Eclipse Black SafeWash

2. B-Safe Gen2 Flexfit Infant Car Seat, Twilight SafeWash

3. B-Safe Gen2 FlexFit+ Infant Car Seat, Drift SafeWash

4. Emblem 3-Stage Convertible Car Seat, Slate Safewash

5. Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Otto Safewash

6. Grow with You ClickTight Plus Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, SafeWash Fabric

 

Britax has been working on finding safer alternatives and ways to reduce flame retardant in their products. For the most accurate and current information, check the specifications on the Britax website or contact their customer service!