We spend so much time making sure the foods our children eat are healthy and free from chemicals. What we don’t always think about the safety items we choose for our children and whether they really are safe. Since this week is Child Passenger Safety Week (September 16-22), car seats are a good place to start. They are designed to keep children safe in the event of a car accident. Of course, you want to put your child in the car seat that will best protect them, but it’s also important to remember that your child will sit in that seat day after day, and if the carseat you choose was manufactured with toxic chemicals, it may not be good. Basically, it adds one more category to look at when choosing a carseat to keep your munchkin safe while on the road.
Choose the Right Type of Carseat—Obviously, when choosing a carseat to purchase, the first thing you want to consider is whether it is the appropriate car seat for your child’s height and weight. I always find it troubling when I see parents putting their children in booster seats prematurely. This is not safe. If you aren’t sure which carseat your child should be in, then the website safecar.org is a helpful resource. Something to keep in mind, is that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that children remain rearfacing until after they’ve turned two years old.
Safety in Accidents— Once you’ve chosen the right type of car seat, you will want to determine which carseats performed the best in crash tests. Consumer Reports does a thorough testing of how carseats perform in crash tests. The only problem is that you need to be a (paid) subscriber to their website to have access to that information. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contends on their website that “all car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards & strict crash performance standards. While all rated seats are safe, they do differ in their ease of use in four basic categories.” Data on how the different carseats rate in those four categories is available on their website.
Best Fit for Your Car—The first convertible car seat I bought several years ago for my son was not a good fit for the car I had at the time. I never liked the way it fit rear-facing. Something about it just didn’t seem right to me, and I had my son forward facing earlier than I would have like, although he was over one year old. Some car companies make the selection process a little easier. Nissan, for example, has a section on their website dedicated to tests they’ve done with installing children’s carseats in their vehicles. I found this to be a great resource when looking for a convertible carseat to use for my daughter in my Nissan Rogue. I don’t believe any other car companies offer this resource yet, but I think they would be wise to. It can save parents a lot of headaches. Going hand-in-hand with finding a carseat that fits in your car well, it’s also important to make sure your carseat is properly installed. There are a number of carseat safety check events and locations where professionals will verify if you carseat is properly installed.
Non-Toxic Chemicals—Finally, if everything else wasn’t enough, now we’re even faced with checking whether a carseat contains toxic chemicals. HealthyStuff.org has rated carseats based on the amount of toxic chemicals in them. The ranking system lists items based on the level of concern: high, medium, low and none. Interesting to note is there are some carseats that are the same brand and model, where the only difference appears to be the fabric pattern. However, that fabric pattern may offer enough of a difference in chemical use to cause one product to have a low concern rating while the other nearly identical product will have a high concern rating. HealthyStuff.org also has a Best and Worst List for 2011 that is helpful for parents who want to take a quick glance.
Good luck choosing a carseat that keeps your little one safe inside and out. And, drive safely!