Rep. Huffman Introduces New Legislation to Rid Children’s Car Seats of Dangerous Chemicals

May 26, 2016

Washington, D.C.-  Congressman Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced legislation today to protect children from unnecessary exposure to carcinogens and other chemicals dangerous to human health that are often added to car seats.

“Car seats are designed to protect infants and children when they ride in a car, and they do that job admirably,” said Rep. Huffman. “Unfortunately, they also unnecessarily expose children to harmful chemicals for no apparent safety benefit. Just as California has modernized standards to reduce exposure to flame retardant chemicals in furniture, my legislation will reduce children’s needless exposure to toxic chemicals, while still ensuring the highest level of health and safety protections.”

“I strongly support this legislation to change the flammability standard for children's car seats so that fire safety is maintained and children's exposure to harmful flame retardant chemicals is reduced. Under the current flammability standard, every child  in every car seat in America is exposed to harmful flame retardants that are continuously coming out of their car seat into air and dust from which can end up inside the children. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, neurological impairments, and contribute to reduced IQ and fertility. This legislation will protect our children from toxic chemicals without reducing fire safety,” said Arlene Blum, PhD, Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute.

“The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) applauds the efforts of Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) to reduce the need for flame retardant chemicals in children’s car seats through the introduction of a bill that changes the flammability testing protocols for children’s car seats. With the introduction of this legislation we are encouraged that legislators and regulators are proactively working to reduce the use of chemicals in juvenile products while still maintaining high regulatory standards that continue to provide the highest protection available for families and children,” said Kelly Mariotti, JPMA Executive Director.

We've found little data or science to support applying a vehicle flammability standard to children's car seats.  Parents, manufacturers, public health and safety advocates all want products that protect our children, not needlessly expose them to more chemical hazards.  This legislation will pave the way for this to happen by requiring a more appropriate flammability standard for these products,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director, Ecology Center.

“Toxic chemicals associated with a number of serious health concerns, including cancer and hormone disruption, should not be used in car seats. It is well established these potentially harmful substances are released from consumer products and find their way into the bodies of children.  Rep. Huffman’s bill makes the long-term health and safety of America’s youngest children a top priority, and we hope others in Congress support this measure,” said Johanna Congleton, Senior Scientist at Environmental Working Group. 

Huffman’s legislation would modernize car seat regulations by:

·        Requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to update its flammability test for children’s car seats from an “open flame” to a “smolder” test. California Governor Jerry Brown has approved a similar shift for furniture sold in the state because of concerns regarding toxic flame retardant chemicals. This smolder test is a more appropriate standard for the types of fire hazard risks actually present in automobile crashes, and will ensure that the use of arbitrary and inappropriate standards do not force manufacturers to apply dangerous chemicals unnecessarily; and

·       Ensuring that the Environmental Protection Agency is consulted regarding the health effects and risks associated with the chemical flame retardants in question to determine an appropriate standard for use.

Earlier this month, Congressman Huffman commissioned a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service on the topic, which provided important background on the overlapping roles of numerous federal and state policies that have led to the use of chemical flame retardants in car seats. Because any administrative changes to NHTSA’s flammability standard might take years, legislation is required that will force the adoption of a more reasonable smolder test for children’s car seats.

In November 2015, Congressman Huffman sent a letter to the Administrator of NHTSA asking the agency to review their application of federal flammability standards to child car seats. In response, NHTSA indicated that they will initiate a two-year study into the matter.