Johnson & Johnson To Make Products Formaldehyde Free, But Is It Enough?

By Kristie Turck •  Published 11/03/11 •  3 min read

In the US, J&J products contain formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane which are both carcinogens

This week The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics asked for a call to action after finding out that Johnson & Johnson, the popular baby product manufacturer, was selling a “safer” version of their bath products in foreign countries.  By safer, I mean they had eliminated formaldehyde releasing preservatives from those products while the babies in the US continue to be exposed to their old formulas.

The ingredient that The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics had their eye on was quaternium-15 which releases detectable levels of formaldehyde in to the products.  Pair that with the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane and you have yourself a nice gentle and safe baby product, right? (That’s sarcasm by the way).  A few years ago they lobbied to J&J to remove quaternium-15 from their products. But as of today, J&J is still exposing babies in the US to these carcinogenic chemicals.

This week Johnson & Johnson released a statement in a letter saying that even though formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are safe (that sounds ridiculous) they are phasing them out and are going to gradually reduce the level of dioxane to lower than detectable levels.
While I think this is a step in the right direction I do have a few misgivings with the recent developments.  One is that its taken entirely too long for J&J to respond to the demand of the consumers.  It’s been years that we have been writing letters to them demanding safer products.  And yes, they did come out with a safer version of their products.  But this is mainly out of money making instead of wanting to make safer products.

My other “beef” is that the spotlight in this case has been mostly on quaternium-15 and 1,4 dioxane.  But what about the fact that they are using hormone disrupting phthalates (fragrance) in a product designed for infants! Even if they eliminate quaternium-15 and dioxane (which are carcinogens… I understand the focus on getting rid of them) the products will still not be what I consider to be “safe”.  But one thing at a time I suppose.

I get email all the time from people asking me what I think of their new “Naturals” line.  I understand people want safe products that don’t cost $16 a bottle.  I get it.  I would much rather pay $4.99 than what I pay for kid shampoo.  But I just cannot give it my support.  It’s free of many things I avoid in skin care but I don’t trust that the company has children’s safety in mind, only dollars signs.  I would much rather support (and sacrifice) a company that cares and has cared from the beginning.

Take Action: Despite what I’ve said above, I do see the value in demanding safer products for the public even if it means they aren’t perfect, but better. So we will continue to write to J&J and other companies to demand better for our babies.