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Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo Contains Potential Carcinogens

A consumer advocacy group is calling for the removal of known carcinogens from Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo and pushing for new government regulation of hazardous contaminants in all children’s personal care products.

In a recently released report called “No More Toxic Tub”, the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed that laboratory tests on some of the most popular infant products, like Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo, proved the presence of potential cancer-causing chemicals.

The tests found that 82 percent contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm), and 67 percent contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm. More than 60 percent of products tested contained both. Johnson and Johnson’s baby shampoo was found to contain 210 ppm of formaldehyde, and low levels of 1,4-dioxane.

According to the Associated Press, Johnson & Johnson says that trace levels of the two chemicals are not listed as ingredients because they are contaminants; byproducts of the processes used to create the shampoo. The company indicates that they have no immediate plans to remove the two chemicals from their products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of nonprofit environmental, health, faith, consumer, women’s and worker organizations that works to protect the public by requiring that chemicals linked to serious health concerns be phased out of personal care products and replaced with safer alternatives.

On April 29, 2009, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced new legislation calling for the FDA to regulate hazardous chemicals in personal care products used by children. The bill would require the FDA to test the products, publicly report the findings and then reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals.

Although Johnson & Johnson, and many government agencies, consider the trace amounts of chemicals safe, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says that they have not considered that the personal care products are likely used in conjunction with other products that also contain the contaminants, resulting in a cumulative exposure level that has not yet been measured.

Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are both listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as probable carcinogens. Formaldehyde is a preservative, released by a chemical known as Quaternium-15 that is used to kill and prevent the growth of bacteria.


Image via Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

23 comments

  1. Ann Reply

    I’m glad that reports such as this are bringing to people’s attention the long list of man-made chemicals in care products.
    It is even worse that they are in baby products. Toxic chemicals are thought to be a main reason why breast cancer, prostate and testicular cancer have increased many fold in recent years.
    Hormone disrupting chemicals are causing reporductive organ problems in baby boys and there are increasing cases of early onset womanhood in little girls as young as six. Also, water companies are no longer able to remove all these chemicals from our drinking water.

  2. Edie-Marie Reply

    What’s wrong with this world?
    This is appalling!!! We must work together to STOP this INSANITY!!! Our children are being endangered by EVERYTHING-hazardous toys, the environment,BABY products thought to be SAFE,food, water etc. We CAN”T ALLOW this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Katherine Reply

    Since one of the 6 functions of skin is absorption, it turns out that we are what we absorb. Now, we routinely medicate to treat many diseases by using transdermal patches. So, what about the other products that we are putting on our skin? What is the ‘dosing effect’ of common chemicals used in our favorite baby products? It is all about dosing, and we don’t yet know the dosing effect on infants, children or adults. So then, this isn’t JUST about our babies; this is about ALL of us. It especially affects our mothers, sisters and daughters, whose cumulative exposure to many toxins found in our personal care products store in our bodies until our childbearing years, and puts even the unborn at risk! Many are ‘born toxic’.
    While logic suggests the complete avoidance of ANY of these toxic chemicals, it would require a complete overhaul of how personal care products are formulated today, which is not cost effective. While the industry does spend millions to promote Pink Ribbon campaigns, give “Gifts with Purchase” and fund research for “The Cure”, they continue to use ‘potentially’ carcinogenic and hormonogenic compounds. Caveat emptor – buyer beware. So, it is up to all consumers to become aware of the risks and leave these toxic products on the shelves. Then, maybe they’ll reformulate without toxins. Some may wonder how this can even be legal.
    In 1981 Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act which sought to protect consumers when it imposed toxicity review of any chemicals used in product manufacturing (Health & Beauty and other products). Two little words rendered this law worse than ineffective, and resulted in our long term exposure to thousands of hidden toxins. Those two little words were: “PRIOR TO”. These words “PRIOR TO 1981” exempted 60,000 chemicals on the market from the toxicity review necessary to establish their product safety, including 10,000 used in H&B products. They get a free pass, and now, “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” apparently applies to the H&B industry. If consumers don’t ask, they aren’t going to tell about the effects of potentially toxic chemicals. Why? They don’t have to, and so that practically guarantees our exposure.
    Consider that since 1981, when the TSCA Law first exempted toxicity review, annual global sales of H&B products have now grown to exceed an estimated $350 Billion dollars and cosmetics sales generate $35 Billion of that. Now, consider our ‘health’ statistics just since that time, including incidents of breast cancer, ADHD, infertility, autism, thyroid malfunction and more. Could there be a link?
    The cosmetics industry is the second largest consumer of petroleum products. Even though the technology exists to produce non toxic or ‘green chemistry’ formulations, it is much cheaper to include the untested chemicals. So, most companies prefer to formulate cosmetics and personal care products using untested, often toxic compounds. Therefore, aren’t we all just part of a big chemical experiment? Could it really be Health OR Beauty? Can there really be carcinogens in our baby products? Is any amount safe? Many of these chemicals are dead animal derivatives from the prehistoric and industrial ages, yet we do not fully understand the health impact even though cancer has become the leading cause of death. Perhaps, what you don’t know can, and will hurt you.
    You shouldn’t need a PhD. in Chemistry when you purchase baby products, body wash, makeup or skin care – but it would be useful. Do you KNOW the top 10 toxins? Visit notoxinskin dot com. Better yet, for an eye-opening account of what we are all up against, just read Stacy Malkan’s book, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Cosmetics Industry”.
    Every October the cosmetics industry promotes breast cancer awareness. They raise millions to fund research for “The Cure”. Since we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it just begs the question. Why does almost EVERY product they sell us contain traces of carcinogens? Together, we can and we will change the world of H&B. If you’re interested in being part of the SOLUTION… send me an email at: notoxinskin at gmail dot com.

  4. Daniela Reply

    Buy Arbonne baby products….They are chemical free and botanically based….Be good to your babies

  5. Laura Reply

    Daniela — Please check product ingredients before recommending them to others. Arbonne products are virtual chemical cocktails. The company knows this. That’s why, on their site, they don’t tell you the ingredients. Instead, they give a list of something called, “key ingredients.”

    For example, the “key ingredients” on a bottle of Arbonne lotion are given as “orchid, nettle and aloe extract, sunflower and safflower oil.”

    Sounds wholesome and wonderful, until you dig around and find the full ingredient list on that same bottle:
    water/aqua/eau, butylene glycol, carthamustinctorius (safflower) seed oil, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, glyceryl stearate, peg-100 stearate, stearic acid, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, ascorbyl palmitate, tocopheryl acetate, panthenol, tocopherol, calcium ascorbate, retinyl palmitate, caprylic/capric/myristic/stearic triglyceride, sorbitan stearate, methyl gluceth-20, cetyl ethylhexanoate, cetearyl alcohol, ceteareth-20, dimethicone, saccharide isomerate, xanthan gum, glucose, chondrus crispus (carrageenan), aloe barbadensis leaf juice, sodium pca, orchis mascula flower extract, camellia sinesis leaf extract, aesculus hippocastanium (horsechestnut) seed extract, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) flower/leaf/stem extract, urtica dioica (nettle) leaf extract, lotus corniculatus flower extract, carbomer, disodium edta, sodium hydroxide, ethylhexylglycerin, glyceryl undecylenate, phenoxyethanol, pogostemon cablin oil, myristica fragrans (nutmeg) kernel oil, citronellol.

    Companies like Arbonne should be driven out of town on a rail. They’re just another band of snake oil salesmen, no different from Johnson & Johnson or any of the other big names on the market — ignoring the science, thumbing their noses at the health of their customers, and using lies and deception to peddle their bottles-full of skin irritants, toxins and carcinogens, .

  6. Daniela Reply

    I disagree strongly on this point. I have the full ingredient list for the Arbonne products since I am a consultant and it does not contain these ingredients. Do you even know what those ingredients are? I have shown them to my doctor and she said they are safe and are not chemicals. i do not know where you get your info from. We are a pure, safe, and beneficial company helping people to live healthy lives while earning an income. I will never look back on this opportunity and will NEVER use anything on my babies or on myself other than Arbonne products.

  7. Russ Reply

    Just a question: Is this the same formula that Johnson and Johnson has always used in their baby shampoo? I mean, they’ve been selling that shampoo for several decades now, it’s been used in hospitals, etc. Yeah, they should clean up their manufacturing process to minimize or preferably eliminate the leftover waste products, but is that really worth a class action lawsuit?

  8. Holly Reply

    I agree with laura. I have noticed that almost all baby soaps contain the same ingredients on the bottle. However, when you research them more online you start to find differences. I know that Johnson&Johnson gave my son a horrible rash so i changed to the huggies baby wash. The only thing I had issues with when using the huggies is not only the harsh chemicals but it was not safe to get near the eyes. Leaving me with no option but to change his soap once again. I started using the cheaper off the wall brands untill burtbee honies came out with some i started using that not only is it tear free but also smells wonderful and did not leave a rash :o) They say they are all natural but i HIGHLY doubt it.

  9. Marion Reply

    I am a chamist. I am a Physical Inorganic Chemist and I have advanced degrees. I hate these stories…They are so over the top…I mean so wrong…

    Has nothing to do witrh man-made (synthestic) vs. natural. Plenty of natural chemicals can kill you. You can take a perfectly harmless natural substance and well heat it up and it becomes deadly. The chemical they are referring to is a preservtive that releases formaldehyde to the surroundings. Lots of preservatives act that way.

    Okay so chemistry touches every aspect of everyone’s daily life. That is a fact. Cooking is chemistry. Get a grip.

    That ingerdient list is called an INCI. It stands for International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients. those are the names of things you MUST include on any formulation. By law only the first 5 major ingredients need to be included. Most companies disclose ALL because there is no patent infringement on those ingredients.

    I make cosmeceuticals. My ingredients are safe and many are silicone based. People are really mis-informed. And really all these links to more mis-information do not help the propagation of mis-information.

    Most of those chemicals in that list you point to are organic fatty acids and botanical extracts. I see a few emulsifiers…and it is the preservative that is the issue.

    Indeed these are all chemicals and most doctors…meaning MDs do not know much chemistry. These are chemicals all things you use daily in your life are chemicals. The air you breath is a chemical. The water you use is a chemical. It is an inorganc chemical and it glass is a chemical…glass is an inorganic chemical and silicone based. Anyone who makes a claim that their formulation contains no chemicals is lying or seriously mis-informed. You can break any igredient down to uit’s chemical composition if you have the know-how…meaning the skills.

    Even the bottles that contain your products are made from chemicals. Important to pick the right one to make sure it does not interact with the contents…So I hope you are all getting the very lage picture here…

    Retinyl palamte is Vitamin A, caprylic/capric/myristic/stearic triglyceride is an emollient, calcium ascorbate is a stable form of vitamin D. all the rest are simply botanical extract and simple organic fatty acids used as thickening agents….

    So simply change the preservative if you do not like it. I have no problem using it…

    Have a nce day and I seriously suggest that everyone take Chemistry 101.

  10. Amira Reply

    my baby is a month and i have been using this product her hair has been falling out in bald spots what should i do because im worried now??

  11. Michelle Reply

    this is very interesting and scary

  12. ingrid Reply

    i used J&J PRODUCT BUT I DON’T THINK I’LL USED IT NO MORE BECAUSE NOW THAT I LOST MY TRUST WITH J&J PRODUCT I DID LOVE AND TRUST BUT WHEN U NEED TO MAKE SOMETHING FOR KIDS DON’T BUY FROM CHINA OR MAKE THE PRODUCT TESTED SAFE WITH NO SHIT … I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW ALL THE PRODUCTS THAT NOT TO USED …

  13. Brenda Reply

    It is a shame that we can’t protect our children from things such as this.
    I sometimes think that the other countries are trying to cause us so many problems. Everytime you turn around its like a recall on this and that. Keep it for their self don’t send it to America. KEEP AMERICA SAFE FOR OUR FAMILIES.

  14. Raquel Reply

    Thanks so much for letting everyone know. I am thankfusl for people like you of letting us know. I would never forgive myself if I continue giving my child a harmful substance in which could have been avoided. With these recalls our children could grow up much healthy and strong without the need of no disease. Again thank you so much. :)

  15. Anna Reply

    Amira,
    It is incredibly common, and absolutely normal for 1 month old babies to loose their hair. This would happen even if you never bathed your baby. It is worse in some babies than in others. In some babies, (especially those with a lot of hair) it is not as noticeable. Other babies loose ALL of their hair and are completely bald before more hair starts to grow in. It is the body’s normal physiological response to the change in hormone levels that occurs in all babies in the months following birth. Most pregnancy or parenthood books have very good information on this phenomenon.

    Marion is absolutely right, and everyone who has posted on here should read her post. Your babies probably get more exposure to formaldehyde and other “harmful” chemicals from the clothes they wear than they do from baby shampoo. It is important for people to understand that EVERYTHING we come into contact with contains potentially harmful chemicals in trace amounts. And if you think that using “all natural” or “organic” products will protect you from this, then you are incredibly naive. Just because something is “naturally occurring” it doesn’t mean that it is safe. Cyanide, for example, is naturally occurring (and, in fact, is even found in apple seeds)! Some of the deadliest substances known to humans are naturally occurring.

    Another important point to understand…ANYTHING can be a carcinogen in the right amount. Too much water can be a carcinogen; too much soy, too much exposure to grass, etc… The amounts of formaldehyde and 1,4 -dioxane in baby shampoos are insignificant. Even a lifetime of daily exposure in these amounts is not likely to be harmful…a well researched fact that the above article fails to mention. Also, these same by-products are found in most hygeine products used by adults as well. Generations of children have grown up and lived long, healthy, and happy lives after using these products on a daily basis. Johnson’s baby shampoo has even been used for decades on children in hospitals who have cancer…guess what? Many of them get better and live full lives! These are the most vulnerable and susceptible children, and they have suffered no harm from using these products.

    One final point: Even if these chemicals did appear in harmful amounts in these products, exposure alone would not be enough to cause cancer. Cancer, like many diseases, is multifactorial. It’s development requires and exposure, an initiator, a promoter, and a sustainer. That means that when you are exposed to a harmful substance, something else must occur to advance toward tumor formation (the initiator) This second factor may be a gene in your body, another substance in the environment that reacts with the exposure substance, the LACK of a particular gene or hormone in your body, etc. Then , there must be circumstances in your body or your environment that promote growth of a tumor. Even after a tumor begins to grow, our bodies have natural defense systems that destroy anything out of the ordinary (this includes tumors, viruses, bacteria, etc…). In order for cancer cells to continue growing and actually cause cancer, the abnormal growth must be sustained by the body.

    The bottom line is this: It is absolutely impossible to live a life in which you are not exposed daily to trace amounts of carcinogens. The stress induced by your worrying about it will be far more detrimental to your health, and the health of your children, than the actual chemicals you fear. Should the FDA keep a closer watch and increase regulations? They probably should. Should Johnson and Johnson recall their baby shampoo? I don’t think it’s necessary, but they probably have no choice. If they don’t, they will appear to not care, be faced with possible negligence charges, and the general mis-informed public will be outraged.
    One last thing to consider – those of you who smoke actually ARE exposing your children to a whole array a very harmful substances and cancer-causing agents in amounts that have been shown in study after study to be harmful, especially to children. What this country really needs to do is outlaw cigarettes. Cigarettes do far more harm to all of us than any chemical in any hygiene product or food. And if you are a smoker and you are truly concerned about your children’s health, then QUIT SMOKING!!!

  16. Lindsay Reply

    my daughter just turned three and was recently diagnosed with leukemia. All we used was j& J shampoos and soaps, I am so angry right now,. And to top it all off, every other parent I have met with kidsd in the hospital for leukemia also used these products. This company has put not only my daughters life at risk, but many of other childrens life at risk as well. they should be ashamed of themselves.

  17. christi Reply

    im so sorry to hear about these babies Lindsay your babygirl and other babies will be in our prayers. i had just went 3 days ago got all my 7mths hygiene supplys and naturally go straight to the johnson&johnson head to toe babywash so tonite after my stepsister informed me of this i found my reciept and took it back had never broken the seal, i kept instock of j&J i think it is just awful, does any one know does the babymagic wash have same ingredient? have a 15 yr old used j&j have 12yr old used j&j 7mth old was using j&j

  18. C.C. Reply

    My daughter, mother to my grandson 7 1/2 months, found out about this through her son’s other grandmother who is a nurse. My daughter just called me and we looked up the information online on several different sites and most all are saying the same things. She has several health problems including heart problems and her son is being followed for possibly similar medical problems. She went through all the J&J products she has and has decided to get rid of them. I remember as a child myself of my doctors warning my mom for me not be around Formaldehyde, that it was dangerous to me with my heart problems and that was back in the late 1970’s, where it was still used in school science classrooms. I’m glad to see that others out there are banning together to get products regulated more than ever. These and other chemicals are largely responsible for the rise in allergies in children and many adults, whether its in the shampoo or sprayed on the foods we eat or used to clean with. I have one child that turned out to be allergic to an allergy medication of all things. I’ve learned to cross check all medications for my family for potential interactions. It is up to us, the consumer to check into anything we use or consume to try and be as informed as possible, then make the decision on whether or not to purchase any products/foods. You wouldn’t buy a car to transport your family without first checking into the safety ratings or recall notices or the price between dealerships. Basically, if your not sure about something being dangerous to you or your family, don’t use/buy it.

  19. Sharen Reply

    My husband has used Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo for decades and has been diagnosed with skin cancer (basal and squamous) twice where the shampoo would touch his face (forehead and ear). Looks like it’s back for the 3rd time and spreading. Does anyone else have skin cancer who has used this shampoo?

  20. T.Ajit Reply

    I have accessed this site late , however I wish to inform the consumers of carcinogenic ( Cancer causing) contaminants in Baby products which may not be in trace amounts.
    Mothers should take note of this, be aware of such things and use discretion while buying J&J Baby care products.
    Now I wish to narrate here a covertly conducted process by J&J in India and probably maybe in China since J&J India blindly copies what is practiced by J&J China.
    J&J India have the practice to conduct Ethylene Oxide (a known carcinogen) sterilization of baby products which fail to meet microbial standards. In other words if the finished baby care product like Baby Lotion or Baby Powder is found to be having high microbial contents and has to be rejected , it is then salvaged by archaic process of Ethylene Oxide ( ETO) sterilization which eliminates microbes. However highly carcinogenic residue of ETO is left trapped inside the container. This is a covert, clandestine operation in which India FDA is not informed and FDA license is not obtained for this process. Recently 15 batches of Baby talcum Powder (165 thousand containers) were released to India market clandestinely by J&J. Please note that only select few came to know about this covert operation for the first time done regularly. ETO sterilization was done at third party sterilization services which used non-certified sterilizer, did not have FDA license and did not have any facility to test the carcinogenic residual ETO. J&J India did not test residual ETO before releasing the batches to market which is a must as per ISO standard . The outdated process guaranteed “193 times” higher residual ETO inside the container than the minimum permissible level of 1 ppm recommended by OSHA. Please note that this minimum permissible level of 1 ppm is for “adults”. Baby skin is known to be 100 times more sensitive than adults. This makes the residual contents “19300 times” higher than the acceptable for babies. This assured that all the 165 thousand babies (and their mothers also) in India may have contracted or will contract the dreaded disease which I don’t want to mention. (God save these unfortunate mothers).
    Why J&J dared to do this? Probably because 1) J&J India grew confident over years as they succeeded in keeping these covert operation under cover 2) Probably over years the perpetrators were confident to “manage” local FDA or Indian ministers 3) they knew that weak Indian laws and under pressure judiciary system will never be able to book the criminals as court cases take years to come for hearing 4) J&J China practice may have further bolstered their confidence & 5) J&J Manangement maybe giving awards to such high risk takers . Had this known to American citizen he would have brought this company on their knees putting the criminals behind bar due to strong American judiciary system. This crime also reminds me of Hitler’s famous gas chamber.
    However the global American or European travellers may have used Indian Baby care products for their babies or it is quite likely that these Carcinogenic products may have reached Europe or USA by some illegal/ legal route. So don’t think that only Indian babies are at risk.
    So this incidence is more dangerous than Bhopal gas (methyl isocyanate / MIC gas) tragedy in India in which 20,000 people died and Union Carbide Company paid peanuts to the people, CEO/Managers got away almost scot free and successfully fled the country with the help of Indian ministers in power. However in this Carcinogenic Baby powder case mothers will never ever dream to attribute the deadly disease of cancer to Baby talcum powder which is highly advertised and claimed as “mild and clinically proven”. Secondly in Bhopal case people died immediately, here in this case unfortunate babies will suffer from ghastly disease of Cancer for god only know how many years.
    Persons interested to know the details should contact Mumbai FDA commissioner Mr Mahesh Zagade in India. His contact number is 91-22-26590548.

  21. Hari Reply

    i actually use shielo’s hydrate line of shampoos (which are sulfate free) to wash my hair. It doesnt have any of those harmful ingredients. I used to have the worst hair, and now I ALWAYS get complements when using the shielo shampoo. Worth the price. . .

  22. Addy Reply

    wow im going to quit using j&j. does anyone know whats safe?

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