Johnson & Johnson Pledges To Remove Questionable Chemicals

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Johnson & Johnson recently announced that it will stop, or reduce use of, several chemicals (including 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, parabens, triclosan, and certain phthalates) in beauty and personal care products. The company, whose products are sold under dozens of other well-known brands including Aveeno, Lubriderm, and Neutrogena, plans to implement this change by 2015.

In a blog post announcing the change, Susan Nettesheim, vice president for product stewardship and toxicology for the company’s consumer health brands, wrote:

“Over the past few years, some interest groups have raised questions about the ingredients in personal care products used widely around the world, and they’ve put particular focus on our baby products. At first we were disappointed, because 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.”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations, analyzed the contents of dozens of beauty and personal care products in 2009 and found two substances–formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane–to be present in most products and to be a point of concern. And right they were! Last year, formaldehyde was listed as a carcinogen by government scientists and 1,4 dioxane has been linked to cancer in animal studies.

In a statement, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics lists the changes Johnson & Johnson has pledged to make:

  • Reduce 1,4 dioxane to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products;
  • Phase out formaldehyde-releasers in adult products;
  • Limit parabens in adult products to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-;
  • Complete phase-out of triclosan from all products;
  • Phase out Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) from all products (no other phthalates are currently used);
  • Phase out polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances.

Kenneth A. Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a coalition under The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, told The New York Times: “We’ve never really seen a major personal care product company take the kind of move that they’re taking with this. Not really even anything in the ballpark.” But this isn’t the first time Johnson & Johnson has made a pledge like this: In 2013 the company announced it would remove questionable chemicals from its baby products.

The New York Times reported:

Johnson & Johnson’s decision requires the company to navigate a public relations tightrope, by portraying itself as willing to make extensive changes while simultaneously reassuring consumers that its existing products are safe. The endeavor’s success is even more critical because the company has experienced serious recalls and quality lapses in recent years. On a new Web site that explains the changes to consumers, the company calls it “moving beyond safety.”

While motives can be questioned and hidden agendas can potentially exist, there is no doubt that this is a step in the right direction. One can only hope that competitors of Johnson & Johnson will follow suit and implement such reforms in their ingredients list in the near future, as well.

  • Susmita Baral

    Susmita is a writer and editor in the Greater New York City area. In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

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