Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s leading personal care brands admitted the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in their baby products. The brand pledged to remove formaldehyde and other “chemicals of concern” from their baby products only after a three-year long pressure by the public and groups such as the Environmental Working Group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the American Nurses Association and many others. Johnson & Johnson baby products without harmful chemicals were promised to replace the existing ones by 2013.
The chemicals of concern in Johnson & Johnson baby products such as lotions and shampoos including the popular “No More Tears” are 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. The latter, however, was never found on the ingredients list. It was “hidden” behind preservatives such as DMDM hydantoin and quaternium-15, both of which release the harmful chemical. Both formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and 1,4 dioxane have been identified as carcinogens, while formaldehyde also irritates the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
Susan Nettesheim, Johnson & Johnson Vice President of product stewardship and toxicology said their products are perfectly safe. In a press release that admits the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in baby products, the brand also emphasized that formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in their products were approved by the regulating agencies in both the United States and other countries where Johnson & Johnson products are sold. They explained their decision to gradually remove the chemicals of concern from their baby products with “moving beyond safety”.
Groups that were pressing Johnson & Johnson to remove hazardous chemicals from their baby products are of course pleased with the brand’s decision. However, they criticized their spokespeople for reassuring the public that the existing products are safe, asking if they are using them on their children too. Environmental and consumer groups also gave credit to Johnson & Johnson for becoming the first major personal care brand to make a commitment to remove questionable ingredients from their products, expressing hope that other major companies will follow Johnson & Johnson’s example.
In addition to chemicals of concern, Johnson & Johnson also pledged to remove other dangerous ingredients from their products such as phthalates and parabens. These have been shown to have estrogen-like effect and are speculated to increase the risk of hormone-related types of cancer. The brand also said they will gradually remove dubious chemicals from their line of personal care products for adults as well. These include Neutrogena, Aveeno and Clean & Clear, to mention only a few. But safer versions of adult personal care products are expected only in 2015 although Nettesheim said many products will be ahead of this time frame. However, the brand also said they will retain formaldehyde-releasing chemicals if safe alternatives won’t work.