As Report Reveals Toxic Ingredients in Baby Shampoo, Johnson & Johnson Goes Public with Plans to Clean Up Products
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See below for a recent update. Less than a month after Johnson & Johnson ranked as the most trusted brand in America in Forbes‘ survey comes a report that could give consumers pause, calling the company out for removing chemicals of concern in its iconic baby shampoo in some countries, but not others. The product currently on shelves in the United States, Canada, and China still contains known carcinogens. In recent years, J&J baby shampoo has become the poster child for the need for chemical reform in the United States; nothing says we need tighter chemical regulation than toxic baby shampoo.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics came out with the news two years ago that Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby shampoo contained the formaldehyde-releasing preservative quaternium-15, as well as the chemical byproduct 1,4-dioxane. Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that “the presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant, is cause for concern,” and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added formaldehyde to its list of known human carcinogens in June 2011.
In 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, along with 40 other organizations (including American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners) sent a letter to J&J outlining their concerns with the company’s products, particularly its baby shampoo. The American Nurses Association and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have since met several times with Johnson & Johnson executives to discuss the matter. The content of those discussions is confidential, but it seems as though if progress were being made, the organization would not have been sending around its latest report, under embargo, yesterday.
That report states that while J&J has removed the formaldehyde-releasing preservative from its baby shampoo in several countries, in the United States if you want carcinogen-free baby shampoo you need to pay double the price for the company’s “Natural” brand of baby shampoo.
We heard from allies across the globe that the formulations in their countries were different than those in the United States, and these are countries like Sweden, South Africa and Japan where the chemical is also not regulated,” says Lisa Archer, national coordinator for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at Breast Cancer Fund. “That’s a double standard.”
When Johnson & Johnson caught wind of the report, they contacted the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and got to work on a statement, indicating that they are in the process of phasing the formaldehyde-releasing preservative out of their baby products, worldwide.
The preservative technologies we use are safe and approved by authorities in the European Union and in the United States, as well as in China and India, and we have not seen any evidence of allergy in hundreds of millions of real life uses of these products,” the statement reads. “However, we know that some consumers are concerned about formaldehyde, which is why we offer many products without formaldehyde releasing preservatives, and are phasing out these types of preservatives in our baby products worldwide. We are no longer introducing new baby products that contain these types of preservatives. Over the past few years or so, we already have reduced the number of formulations globally with formaldehyde releaser preservatives by 33% and in the U.S. by over 60%.”
The statement also includes information about the company’s move to rid its products of 1,4-dioxane. “We have reformulated approximately 70% of our baby products with new cleansing formulations that keep trace levels of 1,4 dioxane at below reliably detectable levels,” it says.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revised the release of their report, indicating Johnson & Johnson’s progress on the matter. Archer says the company’s statement is great news, particularly because J&J has been hesitant to publicly share anything it’s doing about toxics. “There are still questions to be answered, though,” she says. “What’s the timeline for phasing 1,4-dioxane and quaternium-15?”
There are also other, non-baby products in the company’s lines that are of concern, Archer notes, and additional chemicals of concern, beyond formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, in the company’s baby products (such as fragrance, which is protected by trade secret laws and could contain any number of potentially dangerous chemicals).
This is great news, and different from what we expected based on past interactions,” Archer says. “But it’s not over. We have to see how quickly they’re willing to make this shift and where.”
Update: On November 16th, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would remove quaternium-15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives from all of its baby products worldwide within two years, and reduce 1,4 dioxane in all of its baby products to less than 4 parts per million (ppm). Long term, the company indicated it will replace the chemical process, called ethoxylation, that results in 1,4 dioxane contamination. Johnson & Johnson also announced that it has removed phthalates from all of its baby products worldwide. The announcement does not cover the company’s non-baby products (e.g. products in the Neutrogena and Aveeno lines).