Johnson & Johnson Needs to Provide More Action, Answers

Johnson & Johnson announced plans to eliminate potentially carcinogenic chemicals from certain baby shampoos within two years. Sounds like great news, right? Not exactly.

While it’s nice that Johnson & Johnson, which produces common household brands like Band-Aid bandages, Tylenol medications, and Neutrogena skin & beauty products, is taking steps to remove from its baby shampoo the preservative quaternium-15 and a chemical called 1.4-dioxane, some key questions remain.

To start, Johnson & Johnson only made this decision under pressure from a threatened boycott by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Why should it take a high profile call from an activist organization to force a multinational company to make its products healthier? The U.S. government considers quaternium-15 a possible trigger for some cancers and skin allergies –why is that not reason enough to phase it out, particularly from products designed for children?

Quarternium-15 prevents products from spoiling and contamination by releasing formaldehyde to kill bacteria, and Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon claims his company is seeking safer alternatives to use in its products around the world. I doubt the toxicity of this chemical was just recently brought to his attention; so why must it take two years to find a healthier option?

Weldon also notes that the trace amounts of formaldehyde in their products “pose little risk.” But think about how that “little risk” builds up in a child’s system every single time they take a bath. Then consider how small a child’s system is in the first place. It’s not a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s “No More Tears” Shampoo that can cause a problem (though even a tiny bit of exposure to formaldehyde is unadvisable), it’s the repeated washings, over and over. It’s bad for babies, bad for their parents, bad for the environment. And now, for Johnson & Johnson, it’s bad for business.

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Even more embarrassing is that the U.S. is lagging on making these sorts of demands from our government, which we tend to blindly entrust with our best interests. Just two weeks ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics learned that Johnson & Johnson, acquiescing to demands abroad, removed quaternium-15 and 1.4-dioxane from products in places like the U.K., Scandinavia and South Africa.

We must demand better not only from the companies producing often toxic cosmetic products, but from the people (read: lawmakers) outlining safety guidelines in the first place. The sooner we educate ourselves and speak out; the sooner companies like Johnson & Johnson will get the message. Personally, I look forward to the day that a company eliminating toxins from their products is NOT news, but simply the way things are done.

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center™ at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder/Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She is a New York Times best-selling author and a frequent contributor to, Fox Business Channel and Fox News Channel. Check out her website at