Chemical Dangers in Car Seats: Ask Annie

Dear Annie,
I am pregnant and read recently about a study reporting that car seats contain toxic ingredients that can cause health problems including learning impairment, cancer, and more. Help! What am I to do? –Amy, CA

Dear Amy,
Yes, the study is from The Ecology Center’s Clean Car Campaign who launched a new site, to help people choose less toxic car interiors and children’s car seats. You can go to the site and see how over 60 car seat models manufactured in 2006 contained chemicals such as arsenic, bromine, cobalt, phthalates and more. The site has a lot of useful information about these chemicals.

What to do besides try to buy the safest car seat according to these criteria? Don’t abandon the use of a car seat, of course, laws require their use for good reason. Otherwise here are some suggestions:

1. Off-gassing concerns: As HealthyCar.Org mentions, keep the car as cool as possible, and the car seat away from direct sun whenever possible. One way to do this is to buy a window shade for the back seats. It is well known that heat and direct sun speed up off-gassing. The site also recommends airing the car out after returning to it, to remove any out-gassed odors.

2. I’d make sure to air out the car seat for as long as possible before you put the baby into it. Every time you have a sunny day and your car is in your driveway (if you have one), put the car seat on the hood of the car in the sun to bake out chemicals. This will remove some surface chemicals.

3. Wash the car seat’s washable components once a week or so using soap and water. Don’t dismantle the car seat, just wash it as is. Rinse well. This will also remove surface chemicals.

4. If it were me facing this problem I would buy the densest barrier cloth I could find. Barrier cloth is often used for dust mite covers and comes in organic cotton and just cotton, is often 440 thread count, and is specifically designed to seal out dust mites and chemical odors. I’d buy two yards of it and make a jacket for the car seat, including holes for the straps, etc. Make absolutely sure there is no way it could get over the baby’s face or that they could suck on it. I’d then wash this barrier cloth car seat jacket a few times a week.

This combined with frequently airing out the car and putting window shade on the side of the car that holds the seat, is my suggestion for the best way to reduce the chemicals your baby will be exposed to.


Chris R.
Chris R5 years ago


Chris R.
Chris R5 years ago


John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

I like the cover idea.

Ana S.
Ana S.6 years ago

What is Care 2's opinion on car ionizers? Are they healthy; do they really neutralize odors?

gail d.
gail dair6 years ago

thanks for the article

Bonita Sharif
Bonny S7 years ago

where can I buy barrier cloth by the yard?

Elliot C.
Elliot C.8 years ago

I would be interested to know what needs to be taken into account when taking car seats on planes - both if using them in flight and if checking them. I would post on my blog any interesting information. Thanks