Toxic formaldehyde found in child car seats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 3:24am

Formaldehyde, the toxic substance that recently caused a health alert at the University of Hong Kong's new campus, has been found in some child car seats sold in the city.

The cancer-causing compound was among harmful substances found in the seats during the first tests of their kind by the Consumer Council.

The tests on 19 seat models available now or soon to be sold in Hong Kong also found excessive levels of plasticisers, additives that increase the flexibility and durability of plastics.

The latest issue of the council's monthly magazine, Choice, said the plasticiser diisobutyl phthalate was found in the fabric covers of two models, the Maxi-Cosi FeroFix and Maxi-Cosi Fero, at levels double that recommended by an association of textile research and test institutes.

The International Oeko-Tex Association's voluntary labelling scheme sets the maximum level at 0.1 per cent, but the covers were found to contain about 0.2 per cent.

Studies have revealed that certain plasticisers disrupt the body's endocrine system, the glands that release hormones in to the blood, the council noted.

Three models - Peg-Perego's Primo Viaggio Tri-Fix K, Chicco's Auto-Fix Fast, and Cybex's Pallas 2-fix - contained formaldehyde, the substance that caused health problems for staff in the university's new campus buildings and delayed the opening of its new halls of residence.

Dr Yau Yiu-hung, a specialist in indoor air quality at the Open University of Hong Kong, said it was easy for babies to take in the chemical because they liked licking and biting the seats, he said.

He advised parents to wash the fabric covers before using them in an effort to reduce the formaldehyde level.

Of the 19 models, five performed unsatisfactorily in some installation modes in frontal-impact crash tests.

For example, two models offered better protection when installed in the rear-facing position than the forward-facing position. Another model fared better when using the attachment system known as ISOFIX with top tether, rather than using a seat belt.