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The New York Times this morning reports that Johnson & Johnson has pledged "to remove a host of potentially harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde, from its line of consumer products by the end of 2015, becoming the first major consumer products company to make such a widespread commitment."

In addition to formaldehyde, which has been identified as a carcinogen, the story says "the company also plans to phase out other ingredients that have been linked to health problems, including phthalates, which have a variety of uses, like lessening the stiffening effects of hair spray; several fragrance ingredients; and triclosan, an antibacterial substance used in soaps. Johnson & Johnson will remove all parabens, a type of preservative, from baby products and some other parabens from its adult products."

The Times notes that the decision can be traced back to 2009, when "the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that includes the Environmental Working Group, analyzed the contents of dozens of products for children and found that many items contained two substances of particular concern: formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. Consumers won’t find either listed on the back of their shampoos or lotions because neither is technically an ingredient."

The coalition says that it is pleased by Johnson & Johnson's decision, and that it will continue to press other companies to follow in its footsteps; transparency about ingredients, it says, will help Johnson & Johnson get a differential advantage in the marketplace.
KC's View:
One of the points made in the Times piece is that J&J is taking a bit of a risk here, since this move will require reformulating some products with enormous consumer acceptance.

Well, that's true. But I'd like to say, as someone who has used Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo on all of his children - and who, in fact, has used it on my own hair every morning for the past 35 years or so - I'm really okay with reformulating it to get rid of the formaldehyde. (This is probably more personal information that you need to know, but there it is.)

Hell, I didn't even know it was there. As soon as I read this story, I went to fetch my bottle of baby shampoo out of the shower so I could scrutinize the ingredients. And the Times is right - it isn't listed. Though it hardly matters, since the typeface is so damned small I could barely read it anyway...

Good decision by J&J. Even though such ingredients probably haven't done much harm over the years, we live in a world where you can get rid of them. So you might as well.