Johnson & Johnson Finally Admits Their Baby Products Contain Cancer-Causing Ingredients

It’s a company that was founded some 131 years ago and specializes in personal care products for the entire family, particularly babies and pregnant mothers. Multi-generational families have been using its products for years because the company has been advertising its products to be “baby-safe” and “ultra mild” to the touch.

Now, in a move that is so rare coming from such an established personal care product multinational company, Johnson & Johnson’s soaps, shampoos, and lotion are under fire for being found to contain “questionable ingredients” that are harmful to the health of babies and their parents.

Johnson and Johnson’s Questionable Ingredients

Popularly known for their personal care products for the entire family, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) have faced numerous lawsuits and public condemnation over their baby products, including very public complaint letters about their products over the internet.

One such nonprofit environmental research organization, The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy about toxic chemicals, public lands, corporate accountability and agricultural subsidies, lists certain chemicals used by J&J that have been used as additives, and which cause skin, eye, and lung irritation; have cytotoxic ingredients; endocrine disruptors; bioaccumulative carcinogens, and neurotoxins.

Quaternium-15 and 1,4 dioxane, two of the ingredients that are particularly singled out.

The Problem with Chemicals

Quaternium-15 is a chemical that releases formaldehyde, a popular carcinogen that induces burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; causes watery eyes; wheezing; coughing; nausea; and skin irritations. Daily exposure is connected to brain cancer and leukemia.

Other chemicals releasing formaldehyde used by J&J are imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and Diazolidinyl urea.

On the other hand, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified 1,4 dioxane to cause drowsiness, vertigo, anorexia, headaches, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs when inhaled, while topical applications of this may irritate the skin. Unfortunately, it is also identified as a possible carcinogen.

As part of your safety information, check the labels of baby care and personal care products for ingredients like sodium laureth sulphate, PEG-100 stearate, polyethylene, sodium myreth sulphate, and ceteareth-20 because these chemicals produce 1,4 dioxane as a byproduct.

Consumers Fight Back

After the EWG went public over these hazardous chemicals in J&J’s products, angry parents wrote to J&J demanding an explanation, transparency and a change in their formula.

Likewise, on October 31, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent Johnson and Johnson a letter signed by 25 environmental and medical groups, demanding the company remove all dangerous chemicals from all their products by November 15, 2016. They also urged consumers to boycott the company until they complied.

Here is the response of Johnson and Johnson to the campaign:

“We have been phasing out the use of preservatives that release tiny amounts of formaldehyde to guard against bacterial contamination. These preservative technologies, which are used widely in our industry are all safe and approved in the countries where they are sold…Over the past couple of years, we already have reduced the number of formulations globally with these ‘formaldehyde releaser’ preservatives by 33% and in the U.S. by over 60%.

We are completing this reformulation as quickly as we can safely and responsibly do so. As part of the manufacturing process, we have extensive monitoring to ensure that the amount of a trace byproduct known as “1,4 dioxane” in any of our products is well below the level that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and regulatory agencies around the world consider safe.

…We have introduced new product formulations for consumers who prefer natural products, such as JOHNSON’S® NATURAL®. A line that is 98% natural, and contains no formaldehyde-releasing preservatives or traces of 1,4 dioxane.”

So what they’re saying is that J&J admitted that there was a problem with the formulation from the very start – and they just decided to introduce the new Natural line after consumers found out about the formaldehyde?

No wonder that J&J faced numerous lawsuits before for their baby powder products causing ovarian cancer! And that product has been around since my grandmother’s time!

Be Vigilant and Read your Labels

So how can we trust a company that has exposed our babies and children to hazardous ingredients for decades without thinking of us? How can we trust them?

The Environmental Working Group summarizes the problem here:

  • 82% of children are exposed every week to 1 or more ingredients with the potential to harm the brain and nervous system.
  • 69% of children are exposed every week to 1 or more ingredients that may mess up the hormone system, and 3.6% of children are exposed to ingredients with strong information linking them to cancer, including chemicals classified as known or probable human carcinogens.
  • 80% of children’s products marked as gentle and non-irritating contain ingredients linked to allergies and skin or eye irritation according to government and industry sources.

Common sources of chemical exposure include baby shampoo, lotion, diaper cream, sunscreen, and a number of other children’s body care products.

Children’s skin is 30% thinner than an adult’s, so it’s dangerous that children can absorb up to 10 times more the chemicals from bath products, etc. than their parents. The children are technically more at risk from these chemicals.

What You Can Do as a Parent 

Read ALL LABELS on products CAREFULLY, and make sure that you test them on yourself before your children.

Always use all organic 100% natural products on your baby’s and children’s skin. You can also try making your own household products like shampoo or toothpaste. Instead of using the commercial baby oil or baby powder, try applying coconut oil to prevent chafing and diaper rash, as well as to hydrate your children’s skin.

How about you – do you have any other information about J&J’s unscrupulous manufacturing processes? Share in the comments below!

Image by DanielReche / CC BY 2.0