Baby’s Tub is Still Toxic
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In November 2011, I had 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 & 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 article Baby's Tub is Still Toxic a week later, 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.
The following is a 2011 Press Release from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:
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 US), while formulas sold in other countries are free of these chemicals, according to this analysis conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Write to Congress: Ask your U.S. Representative to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011.
- (i) Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (2009). No More Toxic Tub: Getting Contaminants Out of Children’s Bath & Personal Care Products. www.safecosmetics.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/NoMoreToxicTub_Report_Mar09.pdf
- Letter to Johnson & Johnson, May 2009. http://safecosmetics.org/downloads/JNJ-sign-on-letter_May09.pdf
- (ii) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Report on Carcinogens. Available: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2011/june10/
- (iii) National Cancer Institute 2011. Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk. Available: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/formaldehyde
- (iv) Baan, Robert, et al on behalf of the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group (WHO/IARC). A review of human carcinogens—Part F: Chemical agents and related occupations. The Lancet Oncology, Volume 10, Issue 12, Pages 1143 - 1144, December 2009.
- (v) Mackar, Robin. Expert Panel Recommends Listing Formaldehyde as Known Human Carcinogen. Environmental Factor, December 2009. Available: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2009/december/spotlight-expert.cfm
- (vi) Jacob, Sharon E.; Breithaupt, Andrew (2009). Environmental exposures, a pediatric perspective on allergic contact dermatitis. Skin & Aging, July 2009. http://www.the-dermatologist.com/content/environmental-exposures-%E2%80%94-a-pediatric-perspective-on-allergic-contact-dermatitis
- (vii) Moennich, Jessica N.; Hanna, Diane M.; Jacob, Sharon E. (2009). Formaldehyde-releasing preservative in baby and cosmetic products: Health risks related to exposure during infancy. Journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association. 1(3):211-214, May/June 2009.