Dangerous Chemicals On Their Way Out At Johnson & Johnson
August 16, 2012

Johnson & Johnson To Remove Dangerous Chemicals From Their Products

John Neumann for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Johnson & Johnson, maker of a wide range of personal care products such as baby shampoo, acne cream and lotions, has announced its intent to remove formaldehyde and other “chemicals of concern” from its consumer products by the end of 2015.

The change comes after a large coalition of health and environmental groups began pressing J&J more than three years ago to make its personal care products safer for consumers and the environment.

“We want people to have complete peace of mind when they use our products,” said Susan Nettesheim, vice president of product stewardship and toxicology for J&J´s consumer health brands. This finally coming after years of environmental and consumer groups pressuring for the removal of questionable ingredients from personal care products, writes Katie Thomas for NY Times.

Johnson & Johnson told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview earlier this week that it remains on track to have baby products, including its Johnson´s No More Tears baby shampoo, reformulated with safer ingredients by the end of 2013. Adult products will be reformulated by the end of 2015.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that includes the Environmental Working Group, analyzed the contents of dozens of products for children in 2009, reports Linda A. Johnson for the Associated Press.

Findings from that research concluded that many items contained two substances of particular concern: formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. Consumers won´t find either listed on the back of their shampoos or lotions because neither is technically an ingredient.

“We´ve never really seen a major personal care product company take the kind of move that they´re taking with this,” said Kenneth A. Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, one of the organizations that has been negotiating with company officials to change their practices. “Not really even anything in the ballpark.”

Last year Formaldehyde was identified by government scientists as a carcinogen and is released over time by common preservatives like quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which do appear on labels. Also, 1,4 dioxane, has been linked to cancer in animal studies and is created during a process commonly used to make other ingredients apply easier and smoother to the skin.

Phthalates, which are also planned on being removed from the products, have been linked to health problems and have a variety of uses, such as lessening the stiffening effects of hair spray. The company will also remove all parabens, a type of preservative, from baby products and some other parabens from its adult products.

“Consumer acceptance is really important,” Ms. Nettesheim said. “It really doesn´t help you if you reformulate products and people don´t like it.” The company´s baby shampoo, for example, has been marketed for more than 50 years. Tinkering with the formula will require a deft touch from the marketing department.

Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, said her group would continue to press other cosmetics and consumer-goods companies to follow Johnson & Johnson, including the Estée Lauder Companies, Procter & Gamble, Avon and L´Oreal.

In 2010, Procter & Gamble reformulated its Herbal Essences shampoos to limit the amount of 1,4 dioxane to only trace amounts, and its Tide laundry detergent came under scrutiny from some of the same groups because it contains small amounts of the chemical.

Senior science fellow at Procter & Gamble, Tim Long, said his company communicates openly with consumers about the ingredients it uses and stressed that all of its products meet regulatory requirements.

Nettesheim reiterated that the effort must be phased-in over several years for a few reasons. The company has many different formulas for products sold in different countries around the world – including some safer formulas in products long sold outside the US.

Each ingredient replacing an objectionable one must go through quality testing and be evaluated by volunteer consumers.