Thursday, November 3, 2011

I've been keeping up with the whole Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo fiasco for the last few days and contemplating whether to write about this for the whole world wide web to see or to just continue rambling and venting to my husband about it. At the risk of sounding like a paranoid, over protective nut job, I've decided I'm just going to let it fly because in my opinion, this is unacceptable. This makes me angry.

I realize it is just baby shampoo - in the grand scheme of things there are more pressing issues at hand. There are issues being faced and choices being made in this country that will probably affect my child's future more than this shampoo continuing to be allowed on shelves. I realize plenty of other lotions and body washes contain these same carcinogenic chemicals. Our food is being sprayed with worse and no one is doing anything about it, but that's a post for another day. What bothers me is the amount of dishonesty in Johnson & Johnson's business practices. More than two years ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released the report that two chemicals, quaternium-15 and 1,4 dioxane, present in Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo had been linked to cancer. When this report was released the company stopped using one of these ingredients, quaternium-15, but only in some countries. The United States, Canada, China, Australia, and Indonesia were among the countries that the company decided not to remove the chemical from their product in. Instead, they manufactured a "natural" line that contains the same ingredients as the original, minus the cancer causing chemical, and are selling it for twice the profit.

Quaternium-15 is a preservative that is basically formaldehyde with a fancy name. As for 1,4 dioxane, you most likely will not find this on the list of ingredients. It's generated through a process called exothylation, in which ethylene oxide, a known breast carcinogen, is added to other chemicals to make them less harsh. This process is what creates 1,4 dioxane - a chemical like sodium laurel sulfate, normally harsh on the skin, is converted to a less harsh chemical sodium laureth sulfate, which is deemed 'safe,' but ultimately ends up contaminating the product with dioxane. Because it is a chemical that is created during the manufacturing process, the FDA does not require it to be listed as an ingredient. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has stated that even trace amounts of dioxane is cause for concern - and we're bathing our children in it, assuming it's safe because it's labeled 'no more tears.'

In 2009, over 40 companies sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson telling them of their concerns with certain chemicals in their products. Since then, they've met several times to discuss the issue. The content of those discussions is confidential, of course, but it seems like if they had been making any progress at all it would not have taken two years for us, the consumers, to find out. When Johnson & Johnson caught wind of the report that was released a few days ago [The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released it without J & J's permission, which I'm assuming was because the company refused to make changes to their formula and CSC thought the general public should know.], they released a rebuttal statement that they were 'in the process of phasing these chemicals out of their products in the U.S.,' but conveniently, did not indicate a date that they planned to complete this 'process.' I'd like to call a huge B.S. on this - they already have formulas that do not contain these dangerous chemicals being sold on the shelves on other countries like the U.K., Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, and Japan. That's a double standard that I'm sure their profits from their "natural" line in the U.S. have nothing to do with.

So I say all of this to bring up three points. One, we need better regulations on what is in any product, period, in the U.S., whether it's bath products or genetically modified processed food. We, as citizens and consumers, have the right to know what is in the products we are buying, washing our bodies with, and ingesting. There should be honesty and transparency when it comes to the ingredients in products assumed to be safe. Two, because agencies like the FDA are not actively reforming these regulations for the health of the consumer like they should be doing, we all need to be our own and our family's advocates. Do your research. And three, the strongest way that you can influence an issue like this that seems too big to conquer as a single person is with your money. When you buy a product, you are voting for that product. You are telling that company that you approve of their ethical practices and of their ingredients, and that you want them to continue manufacturing the product you bought.

So goodbye, Johnson & Johnson. You've just lost yourself a customer. We won't be seeing you around our house any longer.

1. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
2. Forbes.
3. WebMD.


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