Moms go through a lot to protect their children during pregnancy, avoiding certain foods, activities, and even skin care products.
Once their children are born, parents obsessively protect them from every threat under the sun.
But sometimes, by simply trusting the product labels meant to protect their family, parents unknowingly put their child in the path of danger.
One front running company well-known for their family products, Johnson & Johnson, has recently faced lawsuits and public outrage over their baby products.
Johnson & Johnson not only markets their products directly to new mothers, they also label many of their bath products as being “baby-safe” (1).
However, their shampoos, soaps and lotions contain questionable ingredients detrimental to the health of babies and their parents.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization, lists concerns over Johnson & Johnsons’s multiple additive exposure sources; skin, eye, and lung irritants; cytotoxic ingredients; endocrine disruptors; neurotoxins; and bioaccumulative carcinogens (2).
Two of the most concerning ingredients are Quaternium-15 and 1,4 dioxane.
Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde, a well-known carcinogen that causes watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Daily exposure is linked with leukemia and brain cancer (3).
Other formaldehyde-releasing chemicals used by Johnson & Johnson include DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and Diazolidinyl urea (4).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, inhaling 1,4 dioxane causes vertigo, drowsiness, headache, anorexia and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, while topical application may irritate the skin. It’s also a possible carcinogen (5).
To avoid this chemical, keep an eye out for ingredients like PEG-100 stearate, sodium laureth sulphate, sodium myreth sulphate, polyethylene and ceteareth-20, which produce 1,4 dioxane as a byproduct.
After the public became aware that theses ingredients were lurking in their children’s soap and cream, outraged parents wrote to the company demanding more transparency and a change in their formula.
Additionally, on October 31, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent Johnson & Johnson a letter signed by 25 environmental and medical groups, demanding they “commit to removing the chemicals from all of its products by November 15, 2016.” The Campaign also urged consumers to boycott Johnson & Johnson until they complied.
The company responded:
“We have been phasing out the use of preservatives that release tiny amounts of formaldehyde to guard against bacterial contamination. These preservative technologies, which are used widely in our industry are all safe and approved in the countries where they are sold…Over the past couple of years, we already have reduced the number of formulations globally with these ‘formaldehyde releaser’ preservatives by 33% and in the U.S. by over 60%.
We are completing this reformulation as quickly as we can safely and responsibly do so. As part of the manufacturing process, we have extensive monitoring to ensure that the amount of a trace byproduct known as “1,4 dioxane” in any of our products is well below the level that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and regulatory agencies around the world consider safe.
…We have introduced new product formulations for consumers who prefer natural products, such as JOHNSON’S® NATURAL®, a line that is 98% natural, and contains no formaldehyde releasing preservatives or traces of 1,4 dioxane.”
This new line of baby products is too little too late, and cost nearly twice as much as other products produced by the company. Johnson & Johnson has also faced lawsuits in the past over their baby powder products, which were found to cause ovarian cancer.
After exposing babies and children to deadly ingredients for decades, can this company really be trusted to produce safe products?
Always Read your Labels
Johnson & Johnson isn’t the only company to sell dangerous baby products.
The Environmental Working Group summarises this problem (6):
- 82% of children are exposed every week to one or more ingredients with the potential to harm the brain and nervous system.
- 69% of children are exposed every week to one or more ingredients that may disrupt the hormone system, and 3.6% of children are exposed to ingredients with strong data linking them to cancer, including chemicals classified as known or probable human carcinogens.
- 80% of children’s products marked as gentle and non-irritating contain ingredients linked to allergies and skin or eye irritation according to government and industry sources.
Common sources of chemical exposure include baby shampoo, lotion, diaper cream, sunscreen, and a number of other children’s body care products.
Because a child’s skin is 30 percent thinner than an adult’s, children can absorb up to 10 times more chemicals from bath products than their parents (7).
Jane Houlihan, EWG’s vice president for research explains why children are exposed to so many toxins on a daily basis: “Children are more at risk than adults from many chemical hazards, but we have no special standards to protect them.”
“The safety of baby products falls under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but unlike for drugs and food additives, the FDA has no power to require that cosmetics are tested for safety before they are sold. And due to other loopholes in the law, manufacturers are free to use any claim they wish, such as ‘safe’ and ‘ultra mild’ without proof, and many do just that.”, warns the EWG.
Most surprisingly, many countries have banned these harmful chemicals from their imported products, and Johnson & Johnson respects these guidelines.
This means that most companies already have manufacturing facilities and recipes that respect the sensitivities and needs of children (8).
While Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the U.K. have access to formaldehyde-free products, the company insists on providing American families with carcinogen-loaded soaps.
What Parents Can do
Parents should always read the labels on all the products they expose their children to, whether it be food, hygiene products or toys.
Always use all organic 100% natural products on your baby’s skin. You can also try making your own household products like shampoo or toothpaste. Instead of using baby oil and baby powder, try applying coconut oil to prevent chafing, hydrate skin, and cure diaper rash.