Baby's Tub Is Still Toxic
November 1st, 2011
Update! Prompted by growing concerns raised by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will be removing carcinogens and other toxic chemicals from its baby and adult products globally. See statement.
More than two years after leading health and parents' groups asked Johnson & Johnson to reformulate its flagship baby shampoo to remove a cancer-causing chemical,(i) the company is still using formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in Johnson's Baby Shampoo in some countries (including the U.S.), while formulas sold in other countries are free of these chemicals, according to this analysis conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Why the double standard? Don't all babies deserve to be protected from unnecessary exposures to carcinogens? We're calling on Johnson & Johnson to stand up and make a commitment to remove formaldehyde from all its baby products in all the markets it serves.
What We Found
Between July and October of 2011, 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.
We found that Johnson's Baby Shampoo sold in the United States, Australia, Canada, China and Indonesia contains quaternium-15, while Johnson's Baby Shampoo sold in Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the U.K. contain non-formaldehyde preservatives.
Obviously, it is possible for Johnson & Johnson to make baby shampoo without formaldehyde, and that's what the company should be doing in all countries.
The Problem with Quaternium-15
Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde into cosmetics products. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(ii) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization and the National Toxicology Program have all identified a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.(iii,iv,v)
Formaldehyde and quaternium-15 are also potent allergens that can trigger rashes and other skin inflammation problems.(vi) The North American Contact Dermatitis Group considers quaternium-15 to be among the most clinically significant contact allergens in children.(vii)
Leading health and environmental groups in the United States have sent letters and met with Johnson & Johnson executives several times over the past two and a half years to urge the company to reformulate its baby products to remove chemicals of concern, including quaternium-15.
What You Can Do
Write to Congress: Ask your U.S. Representative to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011.
i Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (2009). No More Toxic Tub: Getting Contaminants Out of Children’s Bath & Personal Care Products. http://safecosmetics.org/downloads/NoMoreToxicTub_Mar09Report.pdf
Letter to Johnson & Johnson, May 2009. http://safecosmetics.org/downloads/JNJ-sign-on-letter_May09.pdf
ii U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Report on Carcinogens. Available: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2011/june10/
iii National Cancer Institute 2011. Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk. Available: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/formaldehyde
iv Baan, Robert, et al on behalf of the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group (WHO/IARC). A review of human carcinogens—Part F: Chemical agents and related occupations. The Lancet Oncology, Volume 10, Issue 12, Pages 1143 - 1144, December 2009.
v Mackar, Robin. Expert Panel Recommends Listing Formaldehyde as Known Human Carcinogen. Environmental Factor, December 2009. Available: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2009/december/spotlight-expert.cfm
vi Jacob, Sharon E.; Breithaupt, Andrew (2009). Environmental exposures, a pediatric perspective on allergic contact dermatitis. Skin & Aging, July 2009. http://www.skinandaging.com/content/environmental-exposures-%E2%80%94-a-pediatric-perspective-on-allergic-contact-dermatitis
vii Moennich, Jessica N.; Hanna, Diane M.; Jacob, Sharon E. (2009). Formaldehyde-releasing preservative in baby and cosmetic products: Health risks related to exposure during infancy. Journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association. 1(3):211-214, May/June 2009.