In 2015, there were no car seats without flame retardants. In 2022, there are more than 30!
In this post, I have reviewed the 8 best non-toxic car seats without fire retardant fabrics that meet federal safety standards. The reviews below cover 3 infant seats, 3 convertible seats, and 2 booster seats made from toxic-free materials. Before the reviews, I’ll give some helpful background that will make you appreciate car seats made using fireproof fabrics without harmful flame retardants.
As a parent, you want your child to grow and thrive by providing a safe environment for them. Considering a car seat is one of the items they will use for the first formative years of their lives, it’s best to buy a non-toxic car seat without flame retardants. The environment is also overloaded with thousands of toxic chemical emissions, so a non-toxic car seat will help lessen the built-up in your child’s body and make them healthier.
Even though non-toxic car seats have not been available in the past, we were very glad to find that there are a number of car seats made recently without toxic chemicals such as flame retardants.
This article looks at what flame retardants are, their effects on the body, and reviews of the best non-toxic car seats without flame retardants that you can get on the market.
What is flame-retardant and its toxicity
Flame Retardants are chemicals used to treat upholstery to prevent or reduce their ignition when exposed to open flames. According to a government journal, fires from upholstered furniture have caused, on average about 90 deaths, 440 injuries, and property losses amounting to 50 million dollars each year since 1990.
Also, in the US, commercial seating products such as those used in airplanes, buses, and even child car seats are required to meet certain flammability standards to be certified safe for sale. So in a bid to meet these standards, manufacturers of these products use upholstery cover fabrics treated with flame retardant chemicals.
However, there began a growing concern about the possible effects of flame retardants in the consumer community, so the National Research Council decided in 1999 to research the toxicity of flame retardant chemicals. The subcommittee members tasked with conducting the research were to assess the health risks that the 16 frame retardant chemicals in residential upholstery would cause consumers and the general population.
They assessed the risk that would result from exposure through skin contact, orally (especially for babies that might suck or chew on the upholstery fabric), inhalation of particles generated during abrasion of the surface fibers, and inhalation of vapors off-gassing from treated fabric.
They could not directly link the flame retardant chemicals to any negative health problems but said that the data collected was insufficient and further studies are needed.
Health impacts of flame retardants
Over the years, more studies have been done by different bodies, and they have shown that flame retardants pose several serious health impacts to humans, animals, and even the environment. These chemicals do not easily break down and remain and accumulate in the environment for years.
Exposure to flame retardants has been associated with: cancer, abnormal brain development, learning problems, interferences with the endocrine system, immunity, and neurological development.
The experts also say that children are the most affected and can have long-term effects because their skin is thinner and their body systems are still developing.
Exposure to flame retardants in car seats
Children and adults are exposed to flame retardants in car seats through the skin, by breathing in chemicals that escape from the seat fabrics and foam into the air, and orally like when a child suck on their fingers after touching the car seat or things that are in contact with the seat.
Experts also say summer months produce the most emissions because flame retardants and other chemicals tend to degrade and off-gas when it becomes hot, only to escape into a poorly ventilated, semi-closed car environment.
Evolution to phase out flame retardants in car seats (2016 to 2019)
Because of all the concerns with flame retardants in car seats, a number of top car-seat companies have phased some toxic flame retardants out of their products.
In a report by The Ecology Center, an independent testing center, there has been an increase in the number of non-toxic car seats being released from 2016 to 2019. They noted that even though there was not one car seat without frame retardants in 2016, there are more than 16 non-toxic car seat models available for purchase today.
The heroic companies behind these innovations are Britax, Clek, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, and UPPAbaby. They have been able to release car seats that passed federal flammability standards without using flame retardant chemicals.
Types of Flame Retardant Chemicals
There are numerous types of fire retardants categorized based on chemical structure and properties. However, the most commonly used are:
Halogenated flame retardants– These are considered to be the most toxic and have been linked to many health and environmental concerns. They can be further classified into Brominated and Chlorinated flame retardants and are mainly used on textiles and plastics.
Phosphorous Flame retardants- these are supposedly safer and have been used to replace the toxic halogenated flame retardants. Recent studies show they are endocrine disruptors and can affect development as well. These types are used extensively in polyurethane foams in furniture, mattresses, high-temperature plastics, and thermal insulation materials.
Nitrogen-based flame retardants-these are used in nylons, polyurethane foams, textiles, wallpapers, and fire-resistant paints. They are also considered less toxic than halogenated flame retardants.
Inorganic flame retardants and mineral compounds- this type combines various inorganic and mineral compounds, and bromine, phosphorus, or nitrogen as a flame retardant or elements of flame retardant systems. They are used in textile, plastics, foams, and wood products.
Are flame retardants effective in car seats?
Representatives from nearly every industry have widely debated this question. Fire scientists say the chemicals are unnecessary and do not provide any substantial safety benefit to children in car seats in the event of a real car fire accident because these fires are often too big for the chemicals to contain.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that they believe the federal flammability standard has served to save many children. Still, it had none to present when asked for evidence of the said benefit. Its representative also pointed out that their support of the flammability standard does not specify the use of chemical flame retardants.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) doesn’t seem to think they are necessary.
Julie Watts, an investigative consumer reporter, also did a side-by-side test of car seat covers to see if flame retardants provided an additional benefit in a fire and observed that the flame retardant free sample performed better than the car seat with chemical flame retardants.
In our conclusion, even if flame retardant chemicals were effective, they do more harm than good. It would be a great thing if manufacturers would exclude them in all their car seats in the future.
Are car seats without car retardants safe in case of fire?
Yes, all car seats must meet federal flammability standards. However, they don’t necessarily have to use toxic chemical flame retardants.
Some non-toxic car seat manufacturers use wool which is naturally flame resistant.
Others use covers made using a denser weaving technique that hinders flammability.
The car seats we are recommending next have met the federal flammability regulation without the use of toxic flame retardants.
Best Non-Toxic Car Seats Without Flame Retardants
We have categorized our non-toxic car seats into three categories;
- Non-toxic Infant Car Seat without flame ratardants for babies under 2 years and mostly weighing 4 to 35 pounds.
- Non-toxic Convertible car seats without flame retardants for kids up to 120 pounds
- Non-toxic booster car seats without flame retardants toddlers kids that have outgrown car seats.
We’ll start with infant car seats;
Best Non-toxic Infant that are Flame Retardant Free
Our overall best non-toxic infant car seat without flame retardants and most suitable for infants with sensitive skin is the Britax Endeavor car seat. This seat exceeds federal safety standards and is made by a reputable brand that has transitioned entirely to using non-toxic materials for all its car seats. This car seat brand is also featured in our 2022 list of best infant car seats partly because of the safe materials used to make it.
Britaxs’ car seats are known to have great quality that will last and top safety features. They have a wide variety of non-toxic car seats, and we have chosen the Endeavor model as our top non-toxic infant car seat.
It uses Britax’s SafeWash fabric which is non-toxic and free of flame retardants for the seat cover, making it very safe for your baby. The other great thing about this cover is that it’s removable and machine washable for up to 30 times!
The Endeavor is a lightweight seat that weighs about 11 pounds and has an ergonomic carrying handle, making it easy to carry to your car. Moreover, it is compatible with all Britax and BOB gear strollers, so you can take your baby for strolls wherever you want safely and conveniently.
Concerning safety, this car seat features Britax’s best-in-class technologies such as two layers of side impact protection, an anti-rebound bar that prevents seat rotation during impact, and a quick-adjust headrest for head and neck protection. It also has a large canopy to shield your baby from the sun.
Parents also love that it’s easy to install in any car. You can use the guided European belt path or the LATCH system, both of which are frustration-free.
The car seat is designed for babies weighing 4 to 35 pounds or 32 inches. You can get it in many different colors, but you want to choose the Otto version, which is the only one with the SafeWash fabric.
- Great safety features
- Easy to install
- Machine washable
- Compatible with Britax and BOB Gear strollers
- Some complained that the seat fabric feels stiff
Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat
Maxi Cosi is another fantastic brand that delivers products with style, safety, and comfort. Their Maxi Cosi Mico 30 infant car seat makes a great option for you to consider as it is non-toxic. Instead of being treated with toxic chemicals, this car seat is made using PureCosi fabric which is free of toxic flame retardant chemicals. It is a polyester fabric that is machine washable and dryer safe, making the seat easy to maintain.
The Maxi Cosi Mico 30 car seat is designed to give a luxurious experience to little ones with nice soft fabrics, cozy head, and neck support, and a soft body pillow. Once the baby is bigger, you can remove the body pillow and they will still be comfy in the Mico 30 seat pad. There is also a large canopy that extends for maximum coverage or unzips open to allow more airflow.
As for safety, the Maxi Cosi car seat features its own unique Air Protect technology that provides great protection for your baby. The base also has an anti-rotation stability leg which greatly minimizes seat rotation in case of an accident to prevent injuries.
The car seat is suitable for babies between 4 to 30 pounds, which is two pounds lower than other infant car seats. However, we love that it is compatible with almost all strollers in the market, so you can easily adapt it to your favorite travel system. Also, it is easy to click in and out of the base, and buckles stay tucked out of the way to let you place the baby in and out of the seat, so it is really a neat car seat.
- Easy care; machine washable and dryer safe cover
- Easy to install
- Buckle stays out of the way to allow easy placement of the baby in and out of the seat
- Compatible with many different strollers using adapters
- Extra-large zippered canopy with ventilation
- It’s a bit large, can be hard to fit in small cars
Our next recommendation for a non-toxic infant car seat is the Uppababy Mesa infant car seat; a high-quality car seat from one of the most popular high-end brands. It was the first car seat to be recognized by the Ecology Center as non-toxic and flame-retardant-free.
The car seat is made using merino wool, which is naturally fire retardant. In addition, wool also helps regulate temperature to keep your child comfortable under different weather conditions. It provides warmth in colder months and also cools in hotter seasons.
This non-toxic car seat has a Smart Secure system that makes it easy to install. There are visual indicators to let you know that you have installed it safely every time. It also has safety features such as an adjustable headrest, side-impact protection, and an extendable UPF 25+ canopy
The Mesa infant car seat attaches seamlessly to UPPAbaby Vista V2 and Cruz V2 strollers to make one of the most versatile and best-performing travel systems that you can find.
It has other variations, but only the Jordan and Henry versions are free of flame retardant chemicals.
- Naturally flame retardant material without the use of toxic chemicals
- Great for preemies and infants
- Easy to install with visual indicators
- Attaches seamlessly to UPPAbaby strollers without needing adapters
- Not as convenient to clean as other car seats since it requires hand washing the fabrics
- Doesn’t provide the best fit for bigger babies
Best Non-toxic Convertible Car Seats Without Flame Retardants
Your child will outgrow infant car seats and you’ll need a non-toxic convertible car seat without flame retardants. Britax and Maxi Cosi are leading all the other brands with the production of high-quality chemical-free convertible car seats. They use alternative materials that do not utilize dangerous flame retardants and below are our best non-toxic convertible car seats without flame retardants. The first two are from Britax and the last one is Maxi Cosi’s
The Britax Advocate ClickTight is one of the best convertible car seats in the market without toxic chemical flame retardants. It is well built, safe, and comfortable.
Like other Britax non-toxic car seats, the Advocate ClickTight seat cover is made of SafeWash fabric which is free of flame retardants. The fabric is also machine washable and dryer safe. However, it’s important to note that the SafeWash fabric is only available for the Advocate ClickTight Otto Safe wash model and not other Advocate models.
The seat is comfortable with adequate padding and spacious seating with 14 adjustable harness settings. It also has three layers of side impact protection and more safety features.
For many parents, the most impressive feature is the ClickTight technology which eliminates any guesswork when installing the car seat and provides you with the assurance that installation is correct every single time. This feature makes for easy and secure installation, further promoting your child’s safety.
- Easy installation without guesswork
- Comfortable with adequate padding and easily adjustable straps
- Superior safety with three layers of side impact protection
- Straps twists and tangle easily, making it harder to buckle your child
- The cover is not easy to remove for washing
Buying a car seat for every stage of your child’s growth is expensive, not to mention a hassle considering you have to choose from many different options. However, manufacturers nowadays are making convenient all-in-one car seats to take care of your child’s need’s from birth until they can use a regular car seat. Below are two great all-in-one car seats that do not have flame retardants.
Our second pick for non-toxic convertible car seats is the Britax One4Life.
The Britax One4Life is the only car seat you need to transport your child safely from infancy to up to 120 pounds! This car seat does it all from rear-facing, forward-facing, to booster seat. The good news is- it’s non-toxic and free from flame retardant chemicals, so it will not be loading your child’s system with toxic chemicals all those years!
Like other Britax car seats we mentioned earlier, One4Life has a SafeWash seat cover made of synthetic fabric that is not treated with flame retardant chemicals. The car seat cover is removable and machine washable for up to 30 washes.
It has different features that will ensure comfort as your child grows. There are 9 recline positions, and 15 headrest and harness positions. It also has many safety features, including two layers of side impact protection surrounding your child’s head, neck, and torso.
We also love that the SafeWash fabric is available in four different colors; Drift, Cadet, Eclipse Black, and Plum for this particular model.
- Grows with your child from infancy, toddler, and big kid
- Easy to install and can fit in most cars
- Great safety features
- Has different colors to choose from
- Seat cover is not the easiest to remove
The Maxi Cosi is our third best non-toxic convertible car seat made using materials free from fire retardant chemicals. This car seat is an all-in-1 convertible seat that will grow with your child until they can use a normal car seat.
Like the small sister we saw earlier, the Magellan Max is made with PureCosi, which is not treated with chemical retardants. It’s a premium fabric that makes the seat cover cozy breathable and moisture-wicking. The cover is removable and machine washable so you can keep the seat fresh for your child.
Consistent with other all-in-1 models, the Magellan Max can be used by children from 5 pounds up to 120 pounds. And it has an array of nice features such as a soft infant body pillow, 7 recline positions, 14 headrests, and harness positions, and Maxi-Cosi’s patented AirProtect technology to keep your child safe from head to toe during rides. Parents have also found it easy to install, especially using the seatbelt.
- Compact and lightweight for an all-in-1 car seat
- Very comfortable with premium fabrics and padding
- Machine washable and dryer safe cover
- Easy to install
- Buckles can be difficult to open
How about non-toxic booster car seats without flame retardants?
Best Non-toxic Booster Car Seats
When your child outgrows their convertible car, they will still need to ride safely in a chemical-free seat. There are not many non-toxic booster seats but Britax and Clek have a few brands that are made without any flame retardant materials. Below are the reviews of our top non-toxic booster seats you can get;
Our best non-toxic booster car seat is the Britax Grow With You ClickTight Plus which is made from flame retardant-free materials; mostly Polyester and nylon.
It is a very sturdy and solid booster car seat that will guarantee your child’s safety and doesn’t contain toxic flame retardant chemicals. Like other Britax non-toxic car seats, Grow with You ClickTight is made using the SafeWash cover, which is soft, machine wash safe, and free of flame retardants.
This booster seat is comfortable with soft breathable fabrics, two recline positions, and wide seating with 9 adjustable harness positions that will accommodate our children as they grow. There are also two built-in cup holders to keep drinks and snacks close, which is very handy, especially during long rides.
Again, the ClickTight technology we saw in the sibling earlier makes this car seat easy to install and uninstall. However, it can be very cumbersome to transfer frequently between cars due to its bulky choice.
We also liked this particular model because it has three-layer side impact protection, which includes an impact-absorbing base, foam-lined headrest, cushions surrounding the head neck, and torso for the best protection.
- High tech safety features
- Easy to install
- Comfortable fabric and padding
- Machine washable fabrics
- Two cup holders
- Very heavy, not ideal to frequently transfer between cars
The Oobr is our second-best pick among the best non-toxic booster car seat with no flame retardants. It is made using organic merino wool, which is naturally flame resistant. And as we mentioned earlier, wool also helps regulate temperatures so your child remains comfortable in any weather.
It is a comfortable seat that can recline up to 12 degrees, which is especially great when your child is going for long rides and the padding is perfect.
We liked that it is built much like a regular car seat, with an all-metal substructure so you can be confident it will keep your child safe. Also, the headrest is adjustable and has foam layers to absorb impact and protect your child.
- Made from organic wool, which is naturally flame retardant
- Sturdy construction that is great at absorbing impact
- The backrest can be removed to allow it to be used a bit longer
- Might not fit in some cars
Jane Lanbert is a mother of two and works as an elementary school teacher. Jane joined Motherhood HQ to provide expertise on product testing after her stint at Consumer Reports. Jane loves reading and getting immersed in new research on various topics from parenting to pet psychology. When not reading or testing baby gear to review, Jane enjoys hiking in the midwest and hanging out with their two dog pets. Jane is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, and holds a degree in Elementary Teaching. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org