Toxic Talk and Labels

After Years of Pressure, J&J Removes Cancer-Causing Chemicals from Baby Bath Products

+ CV Skinlabs Team

J&J Baby ProductsAbout four years ago, I informed readers about a lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) concerning potentially dangerous chemicals in their children’s products. It followed on the heels of a study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in which most of the children’s bath products tested were contaminated with formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane-chemicals linked to cancer and skin allergies.

Now, according to recent news reports, J&J’s baby shampoo and 100 other baby products will no longer contain formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane.

This is a great step forward-but is it enough?

J&J Lives Up to Its Promise

J&J pledged back in 2013 to remove many chemicals from their baby products, including formaldehyde, parabens, triclosan, and phthalates (while continuing to use parabens in adult products). This was in response to customer demand-studies like the one posted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, say nothing of the lawsuit, alerted the company’s management to the fact that customers no longer wanted toxic chemicals in their products, particularly not the ones intended for children.

California also encouraged change when they put into effect the Safer Consumer Products Act, which required companies to eliminate potentially harmful chemicals from the products sold in their state. Since companies had to do it in California, it compelled them to make changes across the board.

J&J’s improved baby products are now available on the market, labeled with the words “improved formula.” They will replace existing products on the shelves over the next several months.

Still Have a Ways to Go

There’s no denying that this is good news. J&J is spending millions of dollars to reformulate and re-issue products that have been staples of American life for years. At Cinco Vidas, we celebrate this small victory, and are glad to hear that the company is continuing its efforts, with plans to remove toxic chemicals like these from all its consumer products by 2015.

Most of all, we celebrate the consumers, organizations, and governing bodies who played key parts in making these sorts of changes possible!

At the same time, we urge consumers to keep the pressure on. Progress is often made in small steps, but it would be a mistake if we eased up on our demands now, just when they’re starting to get some attention.

Look at the ingredients in J&J’s baby shampoo, for instance, and you find that most rate a 0-2 on the Safe Cosmetics Database, which indicates a very low hazard. Two ingredients, however-sodium hydroxide and sodium benzoate-are rated a 3 because of possible organ toxicity (only at very high levels). The formula also contains fragrance, supposedly plant-based, but the plant isn’t identified, so who knows?

In addition, unlike more conscientious companies, J&J includes little in their formula that is actually good for baby. Water and glycerin are the only two that you can pronounce easily, and there are no real oils, vitamins, minerals, proteins, or other things that might actually contribute to healthy baby skin and hair.

Shop Safely for Baby

In moving forward, it will be good to know that standard department store brands of baby products are likely to be safer today than they were even a few years ago. To keep your baby nourished and safe, however, we recommend you continue to read those labels, and take the following steps when bringing products into your home.

  • Shop from companies that care: It’s one thing for a company to change in response to new laws, lawsuits, and consumer demand. It’s another thing when a company focuses on providing safe, wholesome products from the beginning.
  • Shop in places likely to carry organic brands: Though it doesn’t have to say organic to be safe (and some that say organic aren’t necessarily free of potentially toxic chemicals), if you shop in places that are more likely to carry organic brands, your odds of finding safe products are higher. Check out my post for Where to Find Safer Products.
  • Try online shops: Places like babygreenthumb.com, babyearth.com, babyganics.com, and the like for a larger selection of organic and nourishing products.
  • Make your own: You don’t have to buy products at all if you don’t want to. Wellnessmama.com has some wonderful recipes for things like baby shampoo or wash and baby wipes. Find other recipes at mymerrymessylife.com, and diynatural.com.

What do you think of J&J’s change? Will it change how you shop?

Picture courtesy photostock via freedigitalphotos.net.

Jane Key and Environmental Health News, “Johnson & Johnson Removes Some Chemicals from Baby Shampoo, Other Products,” Scientific American, May 6, 2013, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/johnson-and-johnson-removes-some-chemicals-from-baby-shampoo-other-products/.

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