Johnson & Johnson, which makes a range of personal care products like baby shampoo, acne cream and antiwrinkle lotion, announced plans to remove a host of potentially harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde, from its line of consumer products by the end of 2015, becoming the first major consumer products company to make such a widespread commitment.
The company had already pledged to remove certain chemicals from its baby products by 2013, but the latest announcement extended the program to its adult products, including well-known drugstore brands like Neutrogena, Aveeno and Clean & Clear. “There’s a very lively public discussion going on about the safety of ingredients in personal care products,” said Susan Nettesheim, vice president for product stewardship and toxicology for the company’s consumer health brands. “It was really important that we had a voice in that.”
In 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that includes the Environmental Working Group, analyzed the contents of dozens of products for children and found that many items contained two substances of particular concern: formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. Consumers won’t find either listed on the back of their shampoos or lotions because neither is technically an ingredient. Formaldehyde, which last year was identified by government scientists as a carcinogen, is released over time by common preservatives like quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which do appear on labels. And 1,4 dioxane, which has been linked to cancer in animal studies, is created during a process commonly used to make other ingredients gentler on the skin.
The company also plans to phase out other ingredients that have been linked to health problems, including phthalates, which have a variety of uses, like lessening the stiffening effects of hair spray; several fragrance ingredients; and triclosan, an antibacterial substance used in soaps. Johnson & Johnson will remove all parabens, a type of preservative, from baby products and some other parabens from its adult products.
Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, said her group would continue to press other cosmetics and consumer-goods companies to follow Johnson & Johnson, including the Estée Lauder Companies, Procter & Gamble, Avon and L’Oreal.