August 16, 2012 — After years of pressure from consumers and environmental groups, Johnson & Johnson announced that they will be removing formaldehyde, certain cancer-causing chemicals, and other harsh ingredients from its products. The chemicals will be removed from baby products by 2013, and phased out or reduced in adult products by 2015. J&J is the first major cosmetics company to respond to consumers and remove the chemicals.
Concern began growing after a consumer group tested dozens of children’s products, and found two concerning chemicals in J&J’s baby products: formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. The chemicals are not listed on the ingredient labels because they are byproducts of other chemicals. Small amounts of formaldehyde are created by certain preservatives, which are listed on the ingredient labels. 1,4 dioxane is created when other chemicals are made less harsh on the skin.
J&J announced plans to remove these chemicals, and many more — including certain fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and triclosan (an antibacterial agent linked to hormonal effects, decreased muscle contractions, and environmental toxicity).
In addition to public health concern, environmentalists are concerned because the chemicals often end up in sewers, wastewater, and end up polluting downstream environments. Some chemicals (such as triclosan) persist in the environment for several decades.
J&J officials said they will be removing the chemicals from baby shampoo and other baby products by 2013. By 2015, the chemicals will also be reduced or removed from sunscreen, skin creams, acne remedies, and more. J&J owns Aveeno, Lubriderm, Neutrogena, and RoC skin care products, and the chemicals will also be removed from these products.
According to Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund, “This is a major victory for public health. We applaud Johnson & Johnson for its leadership in committing to remove cancer-causing chemicals from its products.” She said she hopes other major cosmetics companies will follow the example set by J&J.
Susan Nettesheim, vice president overseeing product toxicology and integrity, said “We know that all our products are safe by scientific standards and meet or exceed government regulations. Over time, though, we’ve come to realize that sometimes safety alone isn’t enough.”
J&J has created a website to provide more information for consumers. Company officials said that many of the changes have already been made, and the rest will be phased in over the next couple years.
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