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What comes to mind when you think of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo?  Images of your kids playing in the tub, or memories of your own mom suddsing you up as a child? Maybe you think of the company’s famous taglines- “No.1 Choice of Hospitals” and “No More Tears.” Whatever you think of, it probably isn’t caution signs and cancer-causing chemicals - but now that might change.

On May 26th, parents and nurses said “no more toxic tears” to America’s leading manufacturer of baby shampoo. MomsRising, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and nearly 50 other organizations representing more than 1.7 million supporters sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson, urging the company to remove toxic chemicals from its popular baby products, and to meet with members of the coalition to discuss the company’s chemical policy.

The concerns stem in part from a March 2009 report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that found formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane in Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and other top-selling children’s bath products. Both chemicals are known to cause cancer in animals and are listed as probable human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency, and formaldehyde is an allergen that can cause skin rashes. But concerned parents won’t find either chemical on the ingredient labels: Because they are “contaminants” rather than “ingredients,” the company doesn’t have to tell the consumer they are in the bottle.

J&J is still taking the stance that a little bit of carcinogen in baby shampoo is not a cause for concern, even though in reality, there is no safe amount of carcinogen. In response to the letter, a J&J spokesperson said the company takes these concerns "very seriously," but that there are no plans to remove these chemicals at this time.  It did not seem like these concerns were taken seriously last month when concerned parents who contacted J&J received email form letters that did not answer questions, or when the Formaldehyde Council responded to mommy bloggers with condescending language.

Here is the bottom line: Other companies are making similar products without these chemicals, and J&J is already making formaldehyde-free products in Japan, where the chemical is banned from cosmetics.  (It is perfectly legal to use carcinogens and other chemicals linked to harm in cosmetics in the US.)  Therefore, any amount of these chemicals in products intended for infants in children is clearly unnecessary.

For tips on finding safer bath products, check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website. While you’re on the homepage, click the Take Action button on the upper left to send an email to J&J, asking them to live up to their reputation as an industry leader (and don’t forget to personalize your email)!

Hopefully in the near future we’ll be able to think of J&J as a manufacturer of truly “pure” and “gentle” products, and the images of caution signs can once again be replaced with happy bathtub memories.

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