Car seats are admittedly a parochial concern. And, although I have two small kids at home, car seats are something I haven't had to think about as much as most parents because we're lucky enough to not own a car (and to live in one of the few areas of America in which lack of car ownership isn't a crippling hindrance.)
Still, I couldn't help noticing the headline in an email I recently received from the terrific enviro mag Grist. It seems that car seats have now joined the list of potential dangers to your children. Apparently, crash tests aren't the only way to prove the safety of a car seat. A Michigan-based environmental group, The Ecology Center, released a study this week indicating that chemicals such as chlorine, bromine and lead - which have been linked to cancer, as well as liver, thyroid and developmental problems in children and lab animals - could be leaching from seats, endangering the health of young children.
The center, which tested 62 different car seats, obviously isn't advocating driving with your kids on the lap Britney Spears-style. "Car seats save lives. It's absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving," says the group's Jeff Gearhart, but "some car seats are safer than others when it comes to chemical composition."
The Ecology Center suggests the Graco SnugRide Emerson or EvenFlo Discovery Churchill as the two safest seats to buy. The most dangerous: The Combi Centre EX Mango and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Toffee infant seats; Britax Marathon Platinum convertible seats; and Graco's TurboBooster Emily and TurboBooster SafeSeat booster seats.
Click here to check out a database listing the results for all car seats. And if you own one of the chairs that is a candidate for leaching, the report suggests parking out of direct sunlight, opening car windows, cleaning regularly, and limiting junior's time in the seat as ways to decrease the chances of ingesting chemical.
Taken together with the fact that the number one cause of death for infants and children in the US is automobile accidents, I suggest simply driving less.