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Johnson & Johnson Promises to Remove Carcinogens from Baby Product

Health groups applaud move; demand other baby brands follow suit

For Immediate Release:
November 16, 2011

Stacy Malkan, 202-321-6963 , stacy@safecosmetics.org
Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246 , scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org
Leeann Brown, 202-939-9146 , leeann@ewg.org

San Francisco –Today, Johnson & Johnson delivered a letter to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics laying out commitments and timelines for the company’s plans to reformulate all of its baby products worldwide to remove cancer-causing chemicals. The letter was prompted by the Campaign’s Nov. 1 report revealing that Johnson’s Baby Shampoo still contains formaldehyde-releasing chemicals in the U.S., Canada and China, even though formaldehyde-free versions of the product are available in several other countries.

According to the letter, signed by Johnson & Johnson Vice President of Product Stewardship Susan Nettesheim, on behalf of CEO Bill Weldon, the company will:

  • Remove quaternium-15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives from all of its baby products worldwide within two years.
  • 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.
  • The company has already removed phthalates—a reproductive toxin—from all its baby products worldwide, including fragrance.

The commitment to remove chemicals of concern does not apply to Johnson & Johnson’s adult products such as those in the Aveeno or Neutrogena lines.

“We applaud the leadership of Johnson & Johnson for publicly committing to globally reformulate their baby products to remove formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane,” said Janet Nudelman, program director of the Breast Cancer Fund. “Other major baby brands must now follow the lead of Johnson & Johnson and remove carcinogens from their products too.”

She noted that several other top children’s brands—including baby wash by Huggies and Grins & Giggles, Baby Magic Baby Lotion and Sesame Street Bubble Bath—also contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives as well chemicals associated with 1,4 dioxane.

“Clearly, there is no need to be exposing babies to cancer-causing chemicals in the bathtub. Many companies are already making bath products without carcinogens and that’s what all companies should be doing” said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the report, Baby’s Tub is Still Toxic.

“We look forward to the day when all Johnson & Johnson products are free of carcinogens and other chemicals of concern.”

Both formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane cause cancer in animals, and formaldehyde was recently classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program.

The campaign advises consumers to avoid products that contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives such as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea and bronopol; and ethoxylated chemicals such as sodium laureth sulfate, PEG-100 stearate, polyethylene and other chemicals with “eth” in the name. Parents can also use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to find baby products that do not contain chemicals of concern: www.safecosmetics.org/skindeep.


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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. Core members include: Clean Water Action, the Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

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