In 1943 when Johnson & Johnson was about to go public Robert Wood Johnson established a credo to guide his ever growing company through the years ahead. His credo is still in use today.
In one section it states:
We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.
What a pure and simple sentiment. However, that simple statement seems like an almost impossible task to fulfill in today’s consumer economy and culture.
Janet Nudelman, cofounder of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics coalition (and fans of natural cosmetics), blew the whistle on Johnson & Johnson four years ago when the nonprofit watchdog’s testing revealed that the company’s gentle, mild No More Tears baby shampoo actually released the carcinogen formaldehyde. The coalition includes more than one and a half million members, from the Environmental Working Group, American Nurses Association, Friends of the Earth, and the Physicians for Social Responsibility.
In 2012, Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove all carcinogenic chemicals and other harmful ingredients from “almost” all of its adult products worldwide by the end of 2015. And baby products, including that carcinogenic shampoo, would be reformulated with safer ingredients by the end of 2013.
Susan Nettesheim, vice president of product stewardship and toxicology for Johnson & Johnson’s consumer health brands, said, “We want people to have complete peace of mind when they use our products.”
These products include Johnson’s baby lotion and bath products, as well as Desitin for diaper rash, and adult skin care brands like Aveeno, Neutrogena, RoC, Clean & Clear, and Lubriderm. J&J also manufacture medical devices and prescription drugs.
The chemicals that J&J plan to remove include triclosan, phthalates, and some parabens, though they will keep methylparaben,ethylparaben, and propylparaben. It will also remove those fragrance ingredients which are not disclosed on the label.
While these changes are promising, the company has stated that it will, however, allow chemicals that release formaldehyde when no other safe alternative will work.
But consumers are still applauding the effort. In February, Johnson & Johnson executives were offered a document with 30,000 consumer signatures, thanking the company for the products they have so far reformulated.
Johnson & Johnson has so far eliminated parabens, which serve as preservatives (but only in baby products; they have no answer as to why parabens continue to be used in other products). It also says it has removed DEP, the phthalate most commonly used in fragrance and other cosmetics, and other phthalates from all products. They’ve further announced that their fragrances wouldn’t contain animal-derived ingredients, nitromusks and polycyclic musks, tagetes, rose crystal and diacetyl. Triclosan, once added as an anti-bacterial ingredient, also has been eliminated.
Most importantly, Johnson & Johnson claims it has reformulated about 70 percent of its baby products with new formulations that reduce 1,4-dioxane, linked with cancer. According to its website, it has pressured suppliers to reduce the compound in materials it continues to search for ways to eliminate it altogether.
But it’s not just Johnson & Johnson that need to change its policies. Research done by the Environmental Working Group shows that most personal care products sold by large companies contain potentially dangerous chemicals.
Do you think Johnson & Johnson is doing enough to make its products safe?