How Johnson & Johnson is cutting out toxics

Would you use skin lotion that contains a known carcinogen, or wash your child's hair with a shampoo that has  formaldehyde?

Bowing to public pressure to provide safer formulations of everyday products such as these, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) this week is pledging to remove potentially harmful and carcinogenic chemicals from its lotions and adult toiletries by 2015.

That includes brands like Aveena, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, and Lubriderm.

The move follows J&J's decision late last year to remove "chemicals of concern" from its iconic Johnson's Baby Shampoo and other baby-care lotions in the US by the end of 2013.

“We applaud Johnson & Johnson for its leadership in committing to remove cancer-causing chemicals from its products. We will be vigilant in making sure [J&J] meets its commitments and will continue to encourage it to remove other ingredients of concern," says Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund, a co-founder of the campaign.

In particular, the company is eliminating a preservative called quaternium-15 that releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. The inclusion of that substance in the US formulation of Johnson's Baby Shampoo drew the notice of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, especially since a formaldehyde-free version was being sold in other countries.

J&J's commitment also calls for it to:

  • Reduce 1,4 dioxane (another probable human carcinogen) to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products;
  • Limit parabens in adult products to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-;
  • Complete phase-out of triclosan from all products;
  • Phase out Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) from all products (no other phthalates are currently used);
  • Phase out polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances.

Next page: Most aggressive stance by a beauty products company?