Johnson & Johnson Removes Formaldehyde from Baby Products-Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
Johnson & Johnson has removed formaldehyde from baby products like No More Tears shampoo.
Johnson & Johnson removed formaldehyde-releasing ingredients from its baby products back in 2014.
Susan Nettesheim, the vice president of product stewardship and toxicology at Johnson & Johnson, wrote in a 2012 blog post that the company would reformulate its baby products due to consumer concerns over ingredients:
Over the past few years, some interest groups have raised questions about the ingredients in personal care products used widely around the world, and they’ve put particular focus on our baby products. At first we were disappointed, because we know that all our products are safe by scientific standards and meet or exceed government regulations. Over time, though, we’ve come to realize that sometimes safety alone isn’t enough. There’s a vigorous public discussion going on around the world about what ingredients should or shouldn’t be in personal care products, and how they should be regulated. We have a point of view that we’ve expressed, based on our considered understanding of the science involved, and that’s always going to be our starting point. But what matters most isn’t what we think, it’s what the people who use our products think.
Johnson and Johnson didn’t directly add formaldehyde to its baby products, however. Rather, the company used formaldehyde-releasing ingredients like the ammonia salt quaternium-15 to extend the shelf life of many consumer products, including baby shampoo.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and other consumer groups lauded Johnson & Johnson’s decision to remove these formaldehyde-releasing ingredients from baby products as a “major victory for public health.”
However, some toxicology experts have dismissed concerns about formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in baby shampoo as form of hysteria. After all, it’s a naturally-occurring chemical that our own bodies produces, Slate reports:
The concern about formaldehyde in personal care products reveals a bit ofchemophobia, which Dartmouth chemistry professor Gordon Gribble defines as “an irrational fear of chemicals based on ignorance of the facts.” He says, “people don’t know how small molecules are, and they believe that single molecules of some chemical pose a health threat.”
That’s exactly the concern EWG expressed. “The actual molecule formaldehyde itself is the carcinogen,” says Johanna Congleton, toxicologist and senior scientist at EWG. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in a liquid or if you’re inhaling particles with formaldehyde.”
In fact, the only studies that link formaldehyde to cancer are related to humans inhaling it, and inhaling large amounts of it. Funeral industry professionals with more than 34 years of experience or who had performed more than 500 embalmings and factory workers who spent years working around formaldehyde before the 1990s had higher risks for leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The amount of exposure required to cause cancer is so high that other studies of factory workers have been inconclusive.
Formaldehyde occurs naturally in common fruits and vegetables (even organic ones). “Unless people calling for removal of quaternium-15 are also keeping their children from eating apples and french fries,” Hartings says, “I think their activism might be misplaced.”
Our own bodies create formaldehyde as a normal byproduct during amino acid synthesis and overall metabolism, including breaking down antibiotics and other medications. It’s also in drinking water and the air we breathe. Homer Swei, a scientist at Johnson & Johnson, points out that 90 percent of the formaldehyde around us is naturally occurring, with 60 percent of that coming from plants and trees, yet it’s still perfectly fine to walk through the woods. Further, the formaldehyde in synthetic or manufactured products is no different in terms of chemical structurethan naturally occurring formaldehyde—it’s all CH2O.
Nevertheless, Johnson & Johnson elected to remove formaldehyde-releasing ingredients from baby shampoo (and many other products) because of consumer fears. By early 2014, Johnson & Johnson had reformulated many products, the New York Times reports:
In doing so, the company is navigating a precarious path, investing tens of millions of dollars to remove the chemicals while at the same time insisting that they are safe.
The company is responding, executives said, to a fundamental shift in consumer behavior, as an increasingly informed public demands that companies be more responsive to their concerns, especially when it comes to the ingredients in their products.
The complex effort carries both risks and rewards for the health care giant — it requires difficult re-engineering of some of Johnson & Johnson’s most beloved brands, but success in the marketplace could serve as a much-needed boost to a company that has been battered by a series of embarrassing quality lapses and product recalls.
In addition to reformulating many of its products, Johnson & Johnson also created a new website to provide consumers with information about its ingredients. Click here for that website.