Johnson & Johnson reformulating products to remove harsh chemicals

SKILLMAN, N.J. — Personal care maker Johnson & Johnson is on a course to reformulate nearly all of its adult toiletries and cosmetics in less than four years in an effort to remove potentially cancer-causing and other dangerous chemicals.

In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, the company said it is on track to have baby products, including its No More Tears baby shampoo, reformulated by the end of 2013. Adult products will reformulated by the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, the company has launched a new website, SafetyAndCareCommitment.com, to share with consumers its commitment to ensuring the ingredients in its products are safe and high quality.

“You’ve told us that trust is built on more than safety alone. And while all our products are safe and effective, you’ve said that you want to hear more about our ingredients and our safety decision-making process,” the company stated on the website. “It’s one of the reasons we created this website — to share our approach to safety and our ingredient policies with you. It’s all part of Our Safety & Care Commitment. And while the commitment is constant, the information here will be updated when our products and our policies evolve to reflect new regulations, new scientific developments, and your views and concerns.”

The site will evolve and will be updated to incorporate consumer feedback, the latest science, new regulations and new information about J&J’s policies. The site contains information about its approach to research, the care it puts into the development of products for babies and toddlers, and its commitment to sustainability. Visitors to the site also will find information about such topics as the role of preservatives and fragrances.

The AP reported that the key chemicals in question are 1,4 dioxane and the preservative formaldehyde, which is slowly released by a chemical called quaternium-15 to kill bacteria. Both 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde potentially are human carcinogens; formaldehyde also is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant.

The AP reported that, by 2015, Johnson & Johnson will phase out those two chemicals and others of concern, including triclosan, phthalates and parabens, as well as fragrance ingredients, which aren't disclosed on product labels. However, it will allow chemicals that release formaldehyde when no safe alternative will work and is reducing levels of 1,4 dioxane to below 10 parts per million.

"Many of our products will be ahead of this timing," Susan Nettesheim, VP product stewardship and toxicology for J&J's consumer health brands, said. She noted its products already met or exceeded regulatory limits.

The company told the AP that since 2010, it reduced the number of products containing chemicals that release formaldehyde by 33% and the products that contain 1,4 dioxane by 74%. In 2005, it launched the Johnson's Soothing Naturals line, products with no 1,4 dioxane and/or formaldehyde-releasing chemicals. That evolved into Johnson's Natural baby products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics issued a statement on Wednesday praising J&J for its commitment to removing potentially dangerous chemicals from its products, and stated that it will call on other cosmetic and personal care companies to follow suit.