• Thu, Aug 16 2012

Johnson & Johnson Promises To Remove All Those Dangerous Chemicals They’ve Been Using

johnson & johnson chemicals

This is an image from the Onion. It isn't real. Promise.

Fresh on the heels of a lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson announced yesterday that they’d be removing potentially harmful chemicals from all of their beauty and personal care products. To be axed? Formaldehyde, phthalates, and parabens–all of which have been linked to cancer, but aren’t considered dangerous enough to be banned by the FDA. Which is a huge step toward making products that we all rub on our faces and heads safer and less toxic…but is also a reminder that a lot of products (including the Johnson & Johnson ones in your shower right now) still have all that crap in them.

For their decision, Johnson & Johnson, who owns product lines including Neutrogena and Aveno, is being hailed as a leader in the battle against toxic plasticizers and other ingredients, which can be hard to identify on product labels. From the press release,  Susan Nettesheim, Vice President of Product Stewardship & Toxicology for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., had this to say:

Consumers today expect more information and greater transparency than ever before and we’re always listening to the people who use our products.  On this site, we’ll do our best to explain how we make the choices we make, and to show how our plans incorporate consumers’ feedback.  We want all consumers to see for themselves how and why every one of our products can be used with peace of mind.

This is pretty cool. The decision to go chemical-free for all of Johnson & Johnson’s beauty and baby products is a good one–as a consumer, it would be nice to know that an entire drug store shelf was free of these harmful, but sometimes sneaky, items. It’s also going to be expensive; Aside from tons of product testing (which, vegans and other animal-lovers, will likely be on animals, so now is probably a good time to write some letters asking that they address that, as well), it’s also going to require that they do a lot of research.

This switch is going to necessitate that J&J finds new, non-toxic substitutes to do what the soapy, plastic-y, chemical-fragrance-y ingredients that they’re banning did, without alienating customers and changing their products too substantially. Add in marketing costs and redesigns for most of their packages, and this truly does seem kind of like a labor of love.

But there are still some lingering problems. Like that all of their products that are on store shelves and in shower caddies across the country still contain all of those toxins that they’re pledging to get rid of. Because this sea change away from cancer-causing chemicals is great, it hasn’t actually started yet.

And there are also questions. Chiefly, which chemicals, exactly, are going to be banned? Are they switching to BPA-free packaging? What about sulfates, the carcinogenic ingredients in shampoo and soaps that have turned so many women off to the idea? And what about all of their non-beauty items. Will their food products (of which there are many) also be going additive-free?

Regardless of all the unanswered questions, this is still, overall, a very positive move. Hopefully, Johnson & Johnson’s decision will spur other major manufacturers (are you listening, Proctor & Gamble?) to follow suit. Who knows? Maybe eventually, consumers will be able to purchase anything on a shelf with the confidence that it’s carcinogen, hormonal-interrupter free.

Image via The Onion. Which means this is not a real product. Don’t freak out. 

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