Aug. 15, 2012 -- Johnson & Johnson, maker of brands including Aveeno, Neutrogena, and Johnson's Baby Shampoo, says it will remove controversial chemicals from all its baby and adult products by 2015.
The company is one of the world's largest producers of cosmetics. J&J says its products have been shown to be safe by FDA standards and its own internal tests. But safety concerns have been raised about several kinds of chemicals commonly used in cosmetics, including some probable carcinogens.
J&J announced today that by 2015 it will reformulate hundreds of cosmetic and personal care products sold worldwide. The announcement confirms commitments the company made last winter in a letter to a consumer group.
That group, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, co-founded by the Environmental Working Group and about 175 other nonprofit organizations, has been lobbying cosmetics companies to stop using ingredients suspected of toxic effects.
In today's announcement, J&J said it would:
- Reduce traces of 1,4-dioxane to the lowest measurable level in baby products and reduce the chemical below 10 parts per million in adult products. The chemical is a suspected carcinogen. PEG compounds, sodium myreth sulfate, and chemicals including the phrases "xynol," "ceteareth," and "oleth" may contain the chemical.
- Phase out formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. J&J does not add formaldehyde to products, but over a product's shelf life, preservatives emit the alcohol form of formaldehyde. Ingredients that release formaldehyde, which is also suspected to cause cancer, include quaternium 15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol).
- Remove parabens from baby products and use only the three safest forms in adult products. Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says they can be absorbed through the skin and may alter the way hormones work in the body. One study found parabens in breast cancers.
- Phase out triclosan from all products. Triclosan protects products from bacteria. It's been suspected of, but not proven to have, toxic effects.
- Phase out the phthalate DEP from all products. DEP is the only phthalate used in J&J products. Phthalates have been linked to developmental delay and lack of muscular coordination in children and may also affect the body’s hormones.
- Phase out polycyclic musks, animal-derived ingredients, tagetes, rose crystal, and diacetyl from fragrances. These substances are often used in fragrances.
"Every beauty and baby care product from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies is safe and effective when used as directed," the company says on its web site. "We’ve held ourselves to the very highest standards for more than one hundred years."
Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, praised the company’s action in a news release and asked for other companies to follow its lead. "We call on other cosmetic giants ... to meet or beat J&J's commitments and signal they take consumer safety as seriously as their competitor."