Two Connecticut women filed a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over its Aveeno baby wash and baby shampoo products, saying the company marketed them as natural products when they actually contained artificial chemicals that may cause cancer.
The Aveeno class action lawsuit (PDF) was filed by Rebecca Virgil and Heidi Langan, who both say they paid a premium price for Aveeno baby wash and baby shampoo products, believing they were made from all natural products, and thus safer and healthier for their children. The mothers later discovered that the products contained potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
The complaint alleges that Aveeno Calming Comfort Bath, which is billed as having a “Natural Formula,” contains Quaternium 15, a preservative that releases formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. The complaint also claims that the Aveeno baby products also have a high risk of contamination by 1,4 dioxane, another chemical believed to be a cancer-causing agent.
The lawsuit seeks class action status for anyone who purchased the products. It follows a consumer campaign and a petition for a boycott last year by the consumer watchdog group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The boycott was aimed at forcing Johnson & Johnson to remove the chemicals from its baby shampoo products.
Johnson & Johnson calls 1,4 Dioxane a “trace byproduct” of many of its products. It is a compound that is irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract and may cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. It is also classified by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen and was classified by the state of California under Proposition 65 to cause cancer.
Johnson & Johnson uses these and other chemicals and preservatives to prevent the contamination of bacteria in its products. Those preservatives often release a small amount of formaldehyde in the process.
Following the threatened boycott, Johnson & Johnson announced it would remove the chemicals from its baby shampoo products sometime this year.