By Rita R. Robison
More than two years after health and parents’ groups asked Johnson & Johnson to reformulate its well-known baby shampoo to remove a chemical that releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, the company is still using the formaldehyde-releasing ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Shampoo in the United States, Canada, and China, according to an analysis by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
However, the company is making formaldehyde-free versions of the shampoo in several other countries.
For its new report, Baby’s Tub Is Still Toxic, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics purchased and reviewed labels of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo sold in 13 countries to see if the products contained quaternium-15, a chemical preservative that kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics analysis shows that Johnson’s Baby Shampoo sold in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, and Indonesia contains quaternium-15, while the formulas sold in Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the U.K. contain non-formaldehyde preservatives.
After Johnson & Johnson reviewed the group’s report recently, the company released a statement saying it’s no longer introducing new products with formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and it has reduced its use of the chemical by 60 percent in the U.S. and 33 percent globally over the past few years.
"Preventing toxic chemical exposures before they happen is the keystone of corporate responsibility,” Peter Wilk, M.D., executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a statement. “We call on Johnson & Johnson to remove carcinogenic formaldehyde from its products. It’s time to protect all children, regardless of their nationality."
Since May 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, in conjunction with other organizations, has been writing to Johnson & Johnson and meeting with the company to get the two carcinogens removed from Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.
In response to consumer demand, the company launched a new “natural” version of baby shampoo that doesn’t contain chemicals associated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane. However, the original Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, which is priced at about half the cost of the new “natural” shampoo, hasn’t been reformulated in the U.S. market.
On Oct. 31, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – along with the American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and more than 20 other parents’ and health groups – sent another letter to Johnson & Johnson asking the company to remove formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from all its children’s products in all markets worldwide and replace them with safer alternatives. The letter asked for the company to make a commitment by Nov, 15.
“While it is encouraging to see that Johnson & Johnson has made progress in formulating a safer ‘natural’ version of its iconic baby shampoo, now is the time for the company to rise to the occasion and make the safer products the world market is demanding for all its customers.” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund.