By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Johnson & Johnson will remove toxic and potentially dangerous chemicals from all of its baby and adult body products by 2015, the company reported today.

Johnson & Johnson's -- long considered safe for babies.

The first chemicals to be phased out will include 1,4 dioxane and the formaldehyde-releasing preservative, quaternium-15, found in some baby products, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which led a coalition of health and environmental groups in pushing Johnson & Johnson to use safer formulations for all its goods.

A 2009 report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “The Toxic Tub,” uncovered small amounts of 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby shampoo. Later on, researchers discovered that Johnson & Johnson had reformulated its products without those toxic ingredients, selling them in countries where the issue had made headlines, but continuing to use the problematic formulas in the United States.

“This is a major victory for public health,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund and a co-founder of the campaign, a coalition of more than 175 nonprofits including coalition leaders, the Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Action, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Johnson & Johnson told the campaign this week that it will reformulate Johnson’s No More Tears baby shampoo by 2013 and an array of adult products by 2015. It had already promised in November 2011 to reformulate its baby products to remove the carcinogenic 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde.

The 2009 revelation that the shampoo contained trace amounts of  formaldehyde, a carcinogen, made headlines around the world and caused some retailers in China to pull the shampoo from the shelves.

Johnson & Johnson will reformulate hundreds of cosmetics and personal care products in all the markets it serves in 57 countries around the world.

The company has pledged to:

  • Reduce 1,4 dioxane to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products;
  • Phase out formaldehyde-releasers 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.

Both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane cause cancer in animals, and formaldehyde was recently classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Johnson & Johnson's new website offers transparency into product ingredients and formulations.

Several of the other ingredients set to be excised, such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan and polycyclic musks “are all considered to be likely hormone disruptors and have been linked to a variety of health problems ranging from birth defects to diabetes, obesity and breast cancer,” the coalition reported in a statement on Wednesday.

The campaign now plans to turn its focus to other major cosmetics companies, launching a national campaign this week challenging L’Oreal (Maybelline, Garnier, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Softsheen-Carson), Procter & Gamble (CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Old Spice), Estee Lauder (Clinique, MAC, Prescriptives), Avon, and Unilever (Dove, Ponds, St. Ives, Axe) to follow Johnson & Johnson in cleaning up their products.

Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, has launched a website call Safety Care and Commitment    to help consumers get information about its ingredients and the changes it’s planning.

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