Nothing activates activists like products that could harm babies. Johnson & Johnson's signature baby shampoo sold in the U.S. contains trace amounts of two chemicals considered harmful and potentially cancer-causing, 1,4-dioxane and quaternium-15 that releases formaldehyde.
Compounding the situation, the company produces versions of the brand without those elements according to a coalition of health and environmental groups led by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that has been targeting the world's largest health care company on this issue for 2 1/2 years.
"Johnson & Johnson clearly can make safer baby shampoo in all the markets around the world, but it's not doing it," commented Lisa Archer, director of the San Francisco-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, to AP (via USA Today). "It's clearly a double standard, something they can easily fix."
Back in July we covered how the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics was lobbying Bath & Body Works to pull its products with triclosan. Now, the campaign’s anti-J&J report ("Baby's Tub is Still Toxic") which follows up on its 2009 report ("No More Toxic Tub") comes on the heels of three unsatisfactory meetings with J&J.
That prompted a letter sent yesterday to J&J CEO William Weldon, signed by two dozen groups including the Breast Cancer Fund, which cofounded the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, plus the Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Green America.
The coalition urged J&J to publicly commit by Nov. 15 to removing the chemicals from all their personal care products worldwide or face a consumer boycott.
J&J responded in a letter yesterday that even though formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are safe and approved by regulators in the U.S. and other countries, the company is reducing or gradually phasing out the chemicals and reformulating baby products to reduce the level of dioxane below detectable levels.
Johnson's original baby shampoo is sold with the description: "Clinically proven to be pure, mild and gentle. From baby's first hospital bath through every special milestone, moms and healthcare professionals alike trust JOHNSON'S® baby products to provide the 'best in care.'"
Dioxane, a "likely" carcinogen, is found in Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Oatmeal Baby Wash, Moisture Care Baby Wash and Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash.
As the Johnson's Baby website shows, J&J's Baby Shampoo also contains Quaternium-15, which releases formaldehyde — officially identified by the U.S. government as a known carcinogen, not to mention a skin, eye and respiratory irritant that flies in the face of the "No More Tears" tagline.
Quaternium-15 remains in Johnson's Baby Shampoo sold in the U.S., Canada, China, Indonesia and Australia, but is not found in the same product sold in at least eight other countries including the U.K., Denmark, Japan and South Africa.
J&J already has a solution: the Johnson’s Naturals line sold in the U.S., which doesn’t contain 1,4-dioxane. It's pricier, as the original Johnson's baby shampoo costs about half as much — but it has not yet been reformulated, according to the campaign organizers. “Clearly there is no need for Johnson & Johnson to expose babies to a known carcinogen when the company is already making safer alternatives. All babies deserve safer products," said Archer.
What the campaign is asking consumers to do until J&J completely pulls or reformulates the offending products:
1. Vote with your dollar: Until Johnson & Johnson commits to making safer baby products for all babies, purchase products from companies making safer alternatives. Search EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic database to find safer products.
2. Contact J&J: Ask Johnson & Johnson to immediately remove formaldehyde-releasing preservatives from all of its baby products sold in all countries and replace them with safer alternatives.
3. Write to Congress: Ask your U.S. Representative to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011.