Johnson & Johnson to Remove Formaldehyde, Other Chemicals from Products

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Johnson & Johnson announced plans this week to remove a laundry list of potentially harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde, from its personal care products by 2015. It’s the first such move by a major manufacturer of consumer products.

J&J already announced that it would remove questionable chemicals from its baby products by 2013, but the company is now extending that commitment to its adult product lines, which include popular brands like Neutrogena, Aveeno and Clean & Clear.

J&J will phase out ingredients like formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane — the former, which is released over time by preservatives in products, was declared a carcinogen by the U.S. government last year; the latter, a byproduct of a process that makes other ingredients gentler for the skin, has been linked to cancer in animals. J&J will also remove phthalates, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, along with preservatives called parabens, fragrance ingredients, and triclosan, a chemical found in antibacterial soaps, mouthwashes and toothpastes.

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“There’s a very lively public discussion going on about the safety of ingredients in personal care products,” said Susan Nettesheim, vice president for product stewardship and toxicology for the company’s consumer health brands, in a company statement. “It was really important that we had a voice in that.”

The New York Times reported:

Johnson & Johnson’s decision requires the company to navigate a public relations tightrope, by portraying itself as willing to make extensive changes while simultaneously reassuring consumers that its existing products are safe. The endeavor’s success is even more critical because the company has experienced serious recalls and quality lapses in recent years. On a new Web site that explains the changes to consumers, the company calls it “moving beyond safety.”

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The company did not say how much it would cost to reformulate its products, but said that spending on research, development and testing of alternatives to the ingredients it is removing will be costly.

[via The New York Times]