SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A KPIX 5 investigation is generating national attention after revealing how false advertising, legal loopholes and outdated regulations are exposing millions of babies and toddlers to potentially dangerous chemicals in car seats.
On Thursday, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced legislation to rid car seats of flame retardant chemicals.
As a KPIX investigation revealed, regulators admit that there is no evidence to suggest the chemicals provide added fire protection for children in a real-world car fire. However, there is extensive data linking the chemicals to heath concerns ranging from cancer to developmental delays. Studies also show the chemicals are found inside the bodies of children who are exposed to them.
The bill follows a series of stories by ConsumerWatch reporter Julie Watts who recently discussed the findings on the CBS daytime show “The Talk.”
The Huffman bill would force the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to revise a 44-year-old flammability standard that manufacturers say unnecessarily requires they add retardants to car seats.
The Talk host Sara Gilbert expressed her frustration to Watts about how chemical flame retardants are pervasive in many products. “I even went into a store that has a comforter that fits into a crib, and they said they could not legally sell me that comforter because it didn’t have enough chemicals on it to protect from fire in the bed,” said Gilbert.
Watts explained that the groups, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, are calling on the Consumer Products Safety Commission to ban flame retardants in children’s products. However, that would not impact car seats because they are regulated by a different agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.
The bill would update NHTSA’s required car seat flame test to a smolder test similar to California’s new furniture flammability standard. The new smolder test can be met without added retardants.
Huffman admits getting his bill passed quickly may be tough. “If I have interested colleagues across the aisle, maybe I can get a hearing on the issue,” he said.
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) has also called for a senate hearing on the issue.
Watts contacted dozens of lawmakers with jurisdiction over NHTSA to press them the proposed changes. Their responses, along with additional background on the car seat chemical investigation, can be found here on Watts’ blog, Newsmom.com.
NOTE: Car seats in cars save lives. None of this information should be interpreted to imply otherwise. The safest place for a child in a moving vehicle is in a rear-facing car seat in the middle of the back seat.