The Hill has a headline which seems more appropriate for an Onion spoof:  Study finds toxic chemicals in child car seats.  Is this real a surprise or a cause for alarm?  The leftist environmental organization, the Ecology Center, which released the so-called study certainly wants you to think so.  The Hill reports: 

73 percent of child car seats tested contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants and more than half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are hazardous as well.

…The Ecology Center said these substances have been linked to thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes and cancer.


This is alarmism at its worst.  The Ecology Center wants parents to make the leap that, because their babies are touching their car seat, and some chemicals used to make that car seat “have been linked to” health problems, our babies are in danger and we should all get rid of our chemical-containing car seats.  Yet there is absolutely no reason to believe that our babies and toddlers are somehow going to ingest or absorb dangerous amounts of chemicals from the cushioning or plastic in their car seats, anymore than we should worry that they will successfully gnaw off splinters from our dining room tables.  

IWF's Julie Gunlock has explained before that when it comes to worrying about chemical exposure, the dose is what is important (and even the Ecology Center admits that the presence of chemicals doesn't mean that people will actually be harmed by them… I guess somehow that didn't make the press release for this report).  Studies that show links between chemicals and health problems aren't finding that human beings who drink from plastic cups or sit on furniture that contains trace amounts of chemicals are being harmed.  Rats injected with large amounts of these chemicals have problems.  That's really no surprise and doesn't tell us anything about the risks associated with the everyday use of normal consumer products. 

Moreover, keep in mind that car seat manufacturers aren't dousing their products with chemicals for fun (or in an evil plot to destroy us, as some of these alarmist environmental group seem to imply).  There are reasons they are used:  to benefit consumers and, ironically, make the products safes.  It sounds like, in this case, most of the chemicals the Ecology Center wants you to worry about in the car seats are flame retardants. 

Many parents could take this finding from a different perspective.  In fact, I'm happy to know that my 7-month-old's car seat likely has some flame retardants in it. 

Don't worry Ecology Center and other nanny staters!  Naturally, I don't smoke and would never allow someone to smoke in my car, particularly if one of my kids was in it.  But, like most parents, I'll occasionally schlep my sleeping baby in his car seat into a restaurant or other setting where some form of fire (candles and even here in Germany, the occasional lit cigarette) may pass by.  The new alarmism surrounding fire retardants ignores that they are very effective in preventing a real danger – fires – and there is essentially no evidence that anyone is actually being harmed from the trace amounts of chemicals that are in our furniture and car seats.

So parents, by all means, don't let your babies eat their car seats!  If they do they will ingest dangerous chemicals (though the whole choking-on-chunks-of-fabric-and-plastic problem will likely be your top health concern at that point).  Otherwise, relax and ignore headlines and studies like this that prey on your natural tendency to worry.