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Johnson and Johnson Remove Potentially Dangerous Chemicals from Baby Products


Although Johnson and Johnson CEO William Weldon and Vice President of Product Stewardship and Toxicology Susan Nettesheim maintain that their products have always been safe, they are responding appropriately to concerns by the consumer group “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” and have set a two-year plan to remove potentially carcinogenic chemicals that are part of their baby shampoos and other products.

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used in many personal care products, particularly shampoos and liquid body soaps. The chemicals are used to help prevent bacteria from growing in water-based products. However, they can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked as a possible trigger for some cancers and skin allergies.

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Quaternium-15 is one of these common chemicals and, according to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website, is the most sensitizing of the FRP’s. This quaternary ammonium salt can also be found under alternative names such as Dowicil 75; Dowicil 100; Dowco 184; Dowicide Q; 1-(3-Chloroallyl)-3,5,7-triaza-1-azoniaadamantane chloride; N-(3-chloroallyl) hexaminium chloride; hexamethylenetetramine chloroallyl chloride; 3,5,7-triaza-1-azoniaadamantane; and 1-(3-chloroallyl)-chloride. This ingredient is the most often found cause of allergic contact dermatitis of the hands, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Johnson and Johnson has been phasing out FRPs from baby products since 2009, however, this new announcement provides a more concrete timetable for its removal. Ms. Nettesheim says the company has begun providing "alternatives to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and expect(s) to finish this process in our hundreds of baby products around the world within about two years, and sooner for our baby shampoos."

J&J will also be continuing to reduce trace amounts of 1,4 dioxane (1,4-Diethyleneoxide), a potential carcinogen that is commonly found in shampoos and other cosmetics. The chemical contaminates cosmetics during a process known as ethoxylation. However, the company did not provide a timetable for that goal, saying that most J&J products already meet the company standard (less than four parts per million).

“We think it’s an important step forward. We look forward to the day when all their products are free of carcinogens and other chemicals of concern,” said Campaign for Safe Cosmetics spokeswoman Stacy Malkan.



Sometimes very small amounts of chemicals are used in cosmetics, soaps and shampoos to protect consumers from disease-causing bacteria. Quaternium-15 and formaldehyde help protect consumers from harmful bacterial growth. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR)—a national scientific organization of dermatologists, toxicologists, consumer advocates and FDA representatives—has set a safe-use level for Quaternium-15 and formaldehyde in these products. We hope parents consider the benefits of this chemistry and do not make decisions based on reports that lack the full scientific context.