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FAQ: Johnson & Johnson’s Announcement to Remove Cancer-Causing Chemicals


Prompted by growing concerns raised by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Johnson & Johnson announced in August that it will be removing carcinogens and other toxic chemicals from its baby and adult products globally.

We applaud Johnson & Johnson for its leadership in committing to remove cancer-causing and hormone disrupting chemicals from its products and setting a public timeline for these actions. Now we call on other cosmetics giants—Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Unilever—to meet or beat J&J’s commitments and signal they take consumer safety as seriously as their competitor.

What prompted Johnson & Johnson to make this decision?
What ingredients are included in this phase out?
How long is the "phase out"?
Why do we have to wait so long? (2015 phase-out date)
How do we know J&J will remove the chemicals and not simply remove them from ingredient label?
What should consumers do?
Does J&J still test on animals?

What prompted Johnson & Johnson to make this decision?
Johnson & Johnson’s announcement follows the company’s November 2011 commitment to globally reformulate its baby products to remove carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde by the end of 2013, which was triggered by years of campaigning and dialogue with the company by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and allies including the American Nurses Association, including the release of two reports Toxic Tub and Baby’s Tub is Still Toxic, which showed Johnson & Johnson baby products contain these carcinogens.

What ingredients are included in this phase out?
Johnson & Johnson has committed that it will do the following by the end of 2015:
•    Reduce 1,4 dioxane to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products;
•    Phase out formaldehyde-releasers in adult products;
•    Limit parabens in adult products to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-;
•    Complete phase-out of triclosan from all products;
•    Phase out Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) from all products (no other phthalates are currently used);
•    Phase out polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances.

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. Phthalates, parabens, triclosan and polycyclic musks are all considered to be likely hormone disruptors and have been linked to a variety of health problems ranging from birth defects to diabetes, obesity and breast cancer.

How long is the "phase out"?
J&J has confirmed to the Campaign that it has set an internal target date of reformulating adult products by the end of 2015 and its baby products by the end of 2013.

Why do we have to wait so long? (2015 phase-out date)

In an ideal world, we wouldn't. But Johnson & Johnson is such a large company, it will take time for it to reformulate the hundreds of products in all the markets it serves in 57 countries around the world. While J&J still has work to do, we support its efforts and will keep working with the company to make improvements and will monitor its progress.


How do we know J&J will remove the chemicals and not simply remove them from ingredient label?

J&J has chosen to break from the pack and lead the way among major multinationals by listening to growing consumer and scientific concern about hazardous chemicals in cosmetics—that’s just good business sense. J&J has confirmed to the Campaign that it will use safe alternatives when reformulating. This is a voluntary action on the part of Johnson & Johnson that indicates that some in the cosmetics industry are getting the message that consumers want safer products. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics will ask for periodic updates and will be vigilant in monitoring progress. We will also continue to encourage that J&J remain on this course and remove other chemicals of concern going forward.

What should concerned families do?

Get in touch with their legislators and urge support for the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013. As always, we encourage consumers to seek out the safest products for their families and support companies that are avoiding chemicals of concern. You can learn more about your products and find safer alternatives via our website and EWG’s Skin Deep database. Here are some tips to get you started.

Does J&J still test on animals?
According to its website, Johnson & Johnson does conduct animal testing. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics does not support unnecessary, repeated or senseless testing of toxic chemicals on animals, and supports all efforts to seek a methodology that would replace animal testing while ensuring that safety testing meets the most rigorous standards to protect human health and the health of the planet. Read more about our position on animal testing.