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Chemicals in Johnson & Johnson baby products cause controversy

Johnson & Johnson has always promoted an image of its products being safe and gentle enough to use on babies.  For decades, parents have reached for the company’s baby care products, trusting that the ingredients within them were safe and non-toxic.  Just two months ago, the company even ranked first in a Forbes survey of the most trusted brands in America.  But this image took a major hit last month,  when a report revealed that the famous baby shampoo continues to use two known carcinogens:  1,4-dioxane, a chemical byproduct, and quaternium-15, a preservative that releases formaldehyde.

Over two years ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics issued a report called No More Toxic Tub.  The report revealed that a number of baby products, including Johnson & Johnson shampoo, contained carcinogens.  The advocacy group asked Johnson & Johnson to reformulate its products and remove the harmful ingredients.  The company listened–or so the Campaign thought.   In fact, when the Campaign re-analyzed the labels of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo sold in 13 different countries, in found that the carcinogens were still being used in about half of the formulations, including the shampoo sold in America.  Quaternium-15 was found in products sold in the United States, Canada, China, Indonesia, and Australia.  Meanwhile, products sold in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, and Japan, contained non-formaldehyde preservatives.

So why the double standard? As Campaign for Safe Cosmetics director Lisa Arch stated, “Clearly there is no need for Johnson & Johnson to continue to expose American, Canadian, and other babies to formaldehyde when it is already using alternatives in other markets. ”  The company is obviously capable of producing safe alternatives, but deliberately chose to make no changes to the products  in some of its biggest markets.   It’s worth noting that, after the release of the first report, Johnson & Johnson did introduce a “natural” line of baby products.  However, these cost about twice as much as the original products–a price difference that many consumers may not be able to afford.

Luckily, it seems the Campaign’s advocacy has been effective.  As Forbes recently reported,

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).

It remains to be seen when the reformulated products will actually be available.  Furthermore, consumers continue to be misled by products that claim to be safe, gentle, and natural.  Still, there are ways for consumers to learn what harmful chemicals are used in everyday personal care products.  The EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is an easy-to-use search tool that contains information on over 69,000 products.   Consumers can use the tool to discover health concerns associated with each product.

Entry Filed under: Products Liability

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Heather  |  November 7th, 2013 at 11:04 am

    This valuable article, _Products Liability
    Law Chemicals in Johnson & Johnson baby products cause controversy_ shows that you truly fully understand precisely
    what u are communicating about! I personally totally agree with your post.
    Thank you ,Anna

  • 2. Patent Attorney  |  June 12th, 2014 at 3:23 am

    What a scandal! I can see why mothers are paranoid about the products for their babies now.

  • 3. best jogging stroller 2014  |  August 18th, 2014 at 1:17 am

    I love looking through an article that can make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

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