Last week the New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson has announced plans to remove a host of questionable ingredients and contaminants from their products—notably formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane—by 2015.
According to the article they also intend to phase out parabens, phthlates, triclosan and other chemicals we’ve long had on our X list, though it was a little bit unclear from the piece whether this was all going to be on the same timeline.
This is notable progress, and even Kenneth Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, told the Times as much:
“We’ve never really seen a major personal care product company take the kind of move that they’re taking with this,” said Kenneth A. Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, one of the organizations that has been negotiating with company officials to change their practices. “Not really even anything in the ballpark.”
Of course, for this crowd, us included, it’s easy to be a bit cynical about the timeline (and if you are, our friend Kathryn Borel’s comedic piece about it in the Globe and Mail might give you a laugh). But if J&J is really going to eliminate all of these ingredients—and we have no reason to assume they won’t—then that’s applaudable, to say the least!
On this new site they’re cleverly explaining the changes as “moving beyond safety.”
For us the big question remains: What will they replace the current chemicals with? Only then will we know if this is atrue move toward changing the market. Any guesses?
It appears that Johnson’s has added three maybe-clean products to its baby line. Ingredients not found in these products include: parabens, dyes, silicones, lanolin, paraffin, petrolatum, phthalates or essential oils. Um, this is a big deal!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not running out to buy all my friends with babies this stuff—at this point cynicism is my knee-jerk reaction to any big company going green. But to see the baby brand of baby brands make this move—and offer full ingredient disclosure on its site—is huge. Maybe they’re just sick of getting sued, but I still see it as a victory for team natural, and proof that consumer awareness will change the market. Don’t ya think?
Johnson & Johnson is not making any new friends in the schoolyard this year. Back in February, a federal judge in Newark ruled in favor of letting a class action suit against the company proceed (presumably it’s ongoing, unless it was quietly settled…). The plaintiffs were alleging that J&J’s baby shampoo contained methyl chloride—one of the eight ingredients the FDA has actually banned for use in personal care products. (The EU, mind you, has nixed over 1,000.) In the past their baby shampoo was also found to contain formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, but these known carcinogens are still technically legal for use.
Now the company is in hot water again. In May, they announced a voluntary recall of liquid pediatric Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, and Zyrtec, prompting a congressional investigation. According to the FDA, these children’s products may have contained one or some of the following: metal particles, too much of a particular active ingredient, or non-active ingredients that didn’t meet testing standards. Nice, right? Now the New York Times is reporting that Johnson & Johnson is being very uncooperative with the investigation. According to Representative Edolphus Towns, a Democrat from New York, the company had “used delaying tactics in its dealings with the committee and in some instances had provided misinformation.” That’s fancy for lying. According to Towns, J&J told members of their staff they were recalling six million bottles, but had informed the FDA that they were recalling 136 million bottles. There’s more, though! You can read all the juicy details in the article… Fingers crossed that this story actually stays in the news.