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J&J Phasing Out Formaldehyde-Related Chemicals in Baby Shampoo

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Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson, the world’s second-biggest seller of health products, said it is phasing out the use of formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in its baby shampoos, soaps and lotions.

While “parents can rest assured that every Johnson’s product they use today is safe,” J&J is reformulating hundreds of baby products to replace the chemicals with alternative ingredients, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company said today in a letter to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

J&J expects to finish the reformulation process within about two years, “and sooner for our baby shampoos,” according to the letter.

The campaign, a coalition of public-health advocacy groups, alleged in a Nov. 1 report that J&J is selling “toxic baby shampoo” in the U.S. while offering formulations in other countries that are free of formaldehyde-releasing chemicals.

The campaign reviewed labels of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo sold in 13 countries between July and October, and found that those purchased in the U.S., Canada, China, Australia and Indonesia contained quaternium-15, a preservative that kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde. Johnson’s Baby Shampoo purchased in Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the U.K. didn’t contain the chemical, according to the report.

“Obviously, it is possible for Johnson & Johnson to make baby shampoo without formaldehyde, and that’s what the company should be doing in all countries,” the campaign said in its report.

Reduced Formaldehyde

Over the past two years, J&J has reduced, by 60 percent, the number of U.S.-sold baby products with ingredients that release “tiny amounts” of formaldehyde, the company said Nov. 1 in a statement issued in response to the campaign’s report. The preservatives have been removed from 33 percent of baby products sold worldwide, J&J said.

The company is removing the chemicals even though they are “used widely in our industry, are all safe and approved in the countries where they are sold,” J&J said. “We are completing this reformulation as quickly as we can safely and responsibly do so.”

Using an entire bottle of baby shampoo would expose a person to the same amount of formaldehyde as eating an apple or a pear, the company said in today’s letter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at mpeterson9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at abettelheim@bloomberg.net

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