Johnson & Johnson bowing to public concern over toxic chemicals

Give credit where credit is due. One year after announcing their intentions to clean up their personal care products, American company Johnson & Johnson are on the road to deliver the promise.

After announcing its intentions in August 2012, a public meeting was held in Feb 2013 at which The Environmental Working Group presented a petition signed by 30,000 people to J&J executives – only this petition was to thank them for taking the lead in an industry hide-bound by apathy and vested interests.

"Smart companies that are marketing to children are in a footrace to phase out chemicals of concern," said Scott Faber of the EWG.

Back in 2008/9 things were rather different. A round of laboratory testing by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a non-profit watchdog group exposed the fact that its gentle, mild baby shampoo contained the carcinogen formaldehyde.

Following negative publicity, Johnson & Johnson pledged last August to eliminate formaldehyde, parabens, triclosan and phthalates from all baby products. For adult products, it has removed triclosan and phthalates, but will keep using three parabens, and use formaldehyde in exceptional cases where other preservatives wouldn’t work, according to the company’s new policy.

‘In many personal care products and cosmetics, several chemicals on the US Government watch lists have historically been used as preservatives, or fragrances, or stabilizers. But in recent years they’ve come under fire as laboratory studies show tumors, cellular changes or disruption of healthy development and reproduction. States are beginning to restrict them, particularly in children’s products’, said Scientific American.

“We’ve found agreeable alternatives,” a spokesperson for J&J added. “We’re committed to absolute transparency about what’s in the product, and what’s on the label. We’re very involved in the complete supply chain, including holding our suppliers and our raw materials providers to our high standards.”

For example, their chemists said they reformulated products in a way that would extend shelf life and prevent the growth of bacteria without using preservatives that release the alcohol form of formaldehyde. They also eliminated parabens, which also serve as preservatives, but only in baby products; the company did not answer questions about why parabens remain in its other products.

Johnson & Johnson says it removed DEP, the phthalate most commonly used in fragrance and other cosmetics, and other phthalates from all products, and they announced that their fragrances wouldn’t contain animal-derived ingredients, nitromusks and polycyclic musks, tagetes, rose crystal and diacetyl. Triclosan, once added as an anti-bacterial ingredient, also has been eliminated.

One substance, 1,4-dioxane, a solvent linked with cancer, is harder to avoid. It is an unintentional impurity in cosmetics, detergents and shampoos, manufacturers say. Johnson & Johnson claims it has reformulated about 70 percent of its baby products with new formulations that reduce 1,4-dioxane, and has pressured suppliers to reduce the compound in materials while it is searching for technologies that will eliminate it altogether, according to its website.
At this point, Johnson & Johnson won’t reveal how it is accomplishing these replacements. But the intention is to be All Clear by 2015.

Source: Scientific American:

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