Get Educated

Baby’s Tub Is Still Toxic

Suzanne Price

One week ago, I was in the hospital having just given birth to my second daughter, Amber Rose. All of the nurses were amazing, and we truly felt that the hospital experience was as good as it could be. Though I was somewhat in a fog, I think my daughter was given two sponge baths during the 3 days we were there. I wasn't watching when they did it and am not sure what products they used, but when I saw the bottle of Johnson's and Johnson's baby shampoo on the sink in our hospital bathroom, I cringed. I never use products like that at home, and I of course urge all of our customers to use only the most natural ingredients on their newborns. However, I didn't speak up. Everyone had been so nice, and I didn't want to make a fuss. Why is it that we all feel so helpless and unable to speak for ourselves when in a medical setting? When I saw the below article today, I felt justified in my feelings about this product but also angry with myself. Being on my second child, I should have known to pack my own products in my hospital bag and to request that the nurses use them. I urge all of you who are packing your hospital bags to read this article and be more prepared than I was.

More than two years after leading health and parents' groups asked Johnson & Johnson to reformulate its flagship baby shampoo to remove a cancer-causing chemical,(i) the company is still using formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in Johnson's Baby Shampoo in some countries (including the U.S.), while formulas sold in other countries are free of these chemicals, according to this analysis conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Press release: Toxic Baby Shampoo: Johnson & Johnson Agrees to Global Reformulation Under Pressure from Health Groups (Nov. 1, 2011)

Why the double standard? Don't all babies deserve to be protected from unnecessary exposures to carcinogens? We're calling on Johnson & Johnson to stand up and make a commitment to remove formaldehyde from all its baby products in all the markets it serves.

Update! In response to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report, Baby's Tub is Still Toxic, Johnson & Johnson released a statement on Oct. 31 saying it is phasing out formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from its baby products worldwide. See statement.

What We Found

Between July and October of 2011, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics purchased and reviewed labels of Johnson's Baby Shampoo sold in 13 countries to see if the products contained quaternium-15, a chemical preservative that kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde.

We found that Johnson's Baby Shampoo sold in the United States, Australia, Canada, China and Indonesia contains quaternium-15, while Johnson's Baby Shampoo sold in Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the U.K. contain non-formaldehyde preservatives.

Obviously, it is possible for Johnson & Johnson to make baby shampoo without formaldehyde, and that's what the company should be doing in all countries.

The Problem with Quaternium-15

Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde into cosmetics products. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(ii) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization and the National Toxicology Program have all identified a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.(iii,iv,v)

Formaldehyde and quaternium-15 are also potent allergens that can trigger rashes and other skin inflammation problems.(vi) The North American Contact Dermatitis Group considers quaternium-15 to be among the most clinically significant contact allergens in children.(vii)

Timeline of J&J Engagement

Leading health and environmental groups in the United States have sent letters and met with Johnson & Johnson executives several times over the past two and a half years to urge the company to reformulate its baby products to remove chemicals of concern, including quaternium-15.

  • March 2009: A report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, No More Toxic Tub, revealed that Johnson's Baby Shampoo, along with many other children's bath products, contained two carcinogens—formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane—that were not listed on labels.
  • May 2009: More than 40 organizations representing 1.7 million parents, health care providers and environmental health advocates wrote to Johnson & Johnson, detailing their concerns about the toxic chemicals found in the company's baby products.
  • September 2009: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics again wrote to Johnson & Johnson, asking the company to immediately remove the formaldehyde-releasing preservative quaternium-15 from its baby products in light of new research linking the chemical to increased rates of allergic contact dermatitis.
  • 2009-2011: The American Nurses Association and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics met several times with Johnson & Johnson executives to discuss concerns about formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.
  • October 2011: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility and many other health and parents' groups delivered another letter to Johnson & Johnson asking the company to commit to removing formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from all its children's products in all markets worldwide by November 15, 2011.
  • In response to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report, Baby's Tub is Still Toxic, Johnson & Johnson released a statement on Oct. 31, 2011 saying it is phasing out formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from its baby products worldwide.

What You Can Do

Below are a few safe bath products you can find at Sprout's online shop:

Earth Mama Angel Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
Ducky Bath Toy and Teether
Spa Bathtub

References

Comments (2):

  • Lee said on Friday, December 9th, 3:39pm:

    Thanks for this great post! We only use zoe organics (www.zoe-organics.com). You should check it out!

  • Kashish said on Saturday, March 24th, 5:18am:

    But, if you look at this further, you’ll see that J&J was “cleared” and the ptoudcrs are still being sold. Read further, and you’ll note is was a few parents complaining about skin issues. I’m not so sure I love your reporting methods, here though I am certainly not one to consider J&J ptoudcrs to be “safe” and would never use them, myself