Scientists have found toxic flame retardants in newly manufactured children's car seats, sparking concerns about children's health.
In the study, researchers from the Indiana University (IU) found that 15 of 18 children's car seats contained new or traditional hazardous flame retardant chemicals -- linked to a variety of negative health effects, including hormone disruption, impaired brain development, liver damage and cancer.
Children are more susceptible to these effects than adults because of their smaller size and their tendency to put their hands and objects in their mouths.
Moreover, children can be exposed to flame retardants in car seats by breathing in chemicals that leach into the air out of fabrics and foam.
This is especially problematic for children during the summer months, when heat increases the rate at which flame retardants enter the poorly ventilated, semi-closed car environment, the researchers noted.
"New replacement flame retardants, often marketed as safer alternatives, are lurking in children's products without rigorous safety testing and may pose risks for children's health," said lead author Marta Venier, Associate scientist at IU.
"The abundance of emerging flame retardant chemicals in children's car seats and the key role these products play as potential sources of chemical exposure is a cause for concern," she added.
Children can also be exposed to flame retardants by ingesting the dust which accumulates inside the vehicle, through skin contact or by chewing on their car seats.
"We found that car seat manufacturers are intentionally moving away from certain toxic chemicals compounds that they know to be harmful, which is good news," the researchers said.
All of the car seats were newly manufactured between January 2017 and February 2018 and were made in China, Canada, or the US. In total, the researchers tested 36 different fabric and foam samples from 18 car seats.
Phosphonate esters (PMMMPs) were found in 34 of the 36 car seat sampled at levels much higher than those of traditional flame retardants, suggesting their use as a replacement flame retardant for compounds that are known to be harmful.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were observed in 75 per cent of the samples tested, despite being phased out of use in the US in 2013 over health concerns, while decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) was detected in four samples at high levels, suggesting that it was intentionally used. DBDPE is a brominated flame retardant known to cause oxidative stress, hormone disruption and thyroid problems.
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