Are You Using This Popular But Cancer-Causing Johnson & Johnson Shampoo?

The last thing you want for your baby is a shampoo loaded with suspected cancer-causing chemicals. Unfortunately, if you live in the US, this is something you have to face. In the last two years, health and environmental groups have been urging Johnson&Jonhson to stop adding two potential carcinogens from the baby shampoo.

Quaternium-15 is one of these ingredients. It releases formaldehyde, it is known as a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant, and also a dangerous carcinogen.


Experts associate formaldehyde exposure with leukemia. According to

“The North American Contact Dermatitis Group considers quaternium-15 to be among the most clinically significant contact allergens in children.”

The other carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane, is a “likely carcinogen,” and it is contained in Johnson&Johnson’s:

  • -- Baby shampoo
  • -- Oatmeal baby wash
  • -- Moisture care baby wash
  • -- Aveeno baby soothing relief creamy wash

As CDC explains, 1,4-dioxane is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and it is toxic to the brain, central nervous system, kidneys and liver.

Why does Johnson&Johnson hesitate to remove the toxins for US Lots?

On October 31, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics addressed Johnson&Johnson a letter that was signed by 25 environmental and medical groups. In the letter they demanded that the company “commits to removing the chemicals from all of its products by November 15.” The Campaign also urges people to stop buying their products until it complies.

Here is Johnson&Johnson’s reply:

“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 may sound quite reasonable, but there are two major “problems” with their reply:

  1. The company already cells carcinogen-free version of the baby shampoo in other countries, meaning there is no need of any complicated reformulation.
  2. The Johnson&Johnson’s “Naturals” does not contain these chemicals, but it is twice as much as the regular baby shampoo. That provides two carcinogen-free formulas at their disposal, and the line “We are completing this reformulation as quickly as we can safely and responsibly do so” seems more like a strange excuse.

Here are the countries that already receive quaternium-15-free Johnson&Johnson products:

Denmark             Finland                 Japan            The Netherlands

Norway               South Africa       Sweden                The U.K.

According to Jezebel:

“And it’s not like the company removed an essential ingredient to meet environmental restrictions in these countries. While some have banned the use of quaternium-15, it’s unclear why some of these countries are being treated to the carcinogen-free shampoo.”

What should you look for in order to avoid formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane

You really need to know what to pay special attention to in order to avoid formaldehyde-releasing substances and 1,4-dioxane. This is because these are not labeled, at least not in their original name. Here are the common ingredients that can contaminate the products with formaldehyde:

  • Quaternium-15
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea

When it comes to avoiding 1,4 dioxane, be especially careful about these ingredients, because they create 1,4-dioxane as a byproduct:

  • PEG-100 stearate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium myreth sulfate
  • Polyethylene
  • Ceteareth-20

Watch out for other hazardous ingredients

Unfortunately, many personal care products, including special baby care products, sometimes contain a great number of dangerous substances. Avoid products that contain:

  • Chemicals that include the clauses “xynol,” “ceteareth,” and “oleth”
  • Diethanolamine or DEA. It is a potentially cancer-causing agent. DEA readily reacts with nitrite preservatives and contaminants, and creates NDEA, or nitrosodiethanolamine. This is another potent carcinogen. The chemical has the ability to block the absorption of choline, a nutrient that is vital to brain development
  • Propylene Glycol. It is commonly contained in many shampoos, even though the material safety data shees warned everyone to avoid propylene glycol, because it is a strong skin irritant, and can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
  • Parabens. These preservatives are commonly labeled as methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, propyl paraben, butyl paraben, isobutyl paraben, or E216. Expert associate them with cancer. Many studies have shown that parabens affect the body like estrogens, which can eventually lead to diminished muscle mass, excess fat storage, and male gynecomastie, or breast growth. Other studies associate parabens with breast cancer, because researchers have found parabens in every tissue sample from 20 different breast tumors. The EPA reveals a link between methyl parabels and metabolic, developmental, hormonal, and neurological disorders, and also various cancers.

Babies are exposed to dozens potentially unsafe chemicals every day

Four years ago, the EWG, or the Environmental Working Group, has surveyed 3,300 parents. They compared the baby products they used to the list of chemicals that cause allergies, hormone disruption, damages to the nervous system, and cancer.

They revealed that children are exposed to 27 chemicals regularly, and none of these has ever been tested for safety. Check some of the hazardous ingredients they outlined in their review:

  • 2 bromo, 2 nitropropane, and 3-DIOL: These cause allergies and irritate skin. In some products, these ingredients break down and form cancer-causing agents
  • Sodium borate is contained in Desitin diaper cream. It accumulated in baby’s brains and liver, and causes detrimental health problems
  • Oxybenzone is commonly found in sunscreen. It triggers allergies, and disrupts baby’s hormone system
  • Believe it or not, 89% of the products labeled “Recommended by doctor” are some of the worst offenders, and contain the most dangerous chemicals.
  • The 2007 EWG study revealed that:
  • 82 percent of babies are exposed every week to one or more chemicals that harm their brain and nervous system
  • 60% of the babies are exposed every week to ingredients that disrupt the nervous system
  • 3.6% of babies are exposed to ingredients associated with cancer, including chemicals determined as known or potential human carcinogens
  • 80% of baby products labeled as gentle and non-irritating contain substances associated with allergies and skin or eye irritations

Evaluate the ingredients before you buy the product

Potentil toxins are found in shampoos, soaps, lotions and many other personal care products. This is quite a serious issue, because the skin absorbs these chemicals, and they go directly into the blood stream. In fact, they do more harm when your body absorbs them, not when you swallow them.

Switch over to organic brands or toiletries, including the products you use for your baby. You can find these at the local healthy food store, or you can purchase them online. Be careful, not all products marked as “natural” or “organic” are actually wholly natural or organic, because “greenwashing” has become quite pervasive.

Use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep site and evaluate each product before you buy it. It is a nonprofit public-interest research group, and it is widely known for outlining links between chemical exposure and severe health conditions.

Since the inception in 2004, the “Skin Deep” study has already assigned health-risk ratings including thousands personal care products.

General shopping guidelines

Here are some simple guidelines to keep you away from dangerous personal care products:

-- Always buy products that contain the genuine USDA Organic Seal

-- If it is hard for you to pronounce it, you probably should not apply it on your body. Or, you can ask yourself, “Would I eat this?”

-- Choose fragrance-free products. A single artificial fragrance contains hundreds or thousands of chemicals. Fragrances are a major cause of allergies.

-- Pay special attention to the order in which the ingredients are labeled. Manufacturers list the ingredients in descending order by their volume, so the first ingredient are always the most prominent. For instance, if calendula extract is the last ingredient listed, the calendula body wash you just bought is not that natural.

-- Always stick to the basics. Ask yourself, “Do I need 10 products to get ready for the day?” Cut off your list and save your bank account by reducing the number of personal care products you use every day.

-- Choose products in glass bottles. Chemicals easily leach out of plastics and directly into the content. Pay special attention to Bisphenol A (BPA), and make sure that the plastic containers are BPA-free.

-- Buy products that are made by Earth- and animal-friendly companies committed to organic and sustainable business practice.

You should be really concerned about the number of toxins you expose your baby to regularly, because every exposure adds to the total, long-term toxic load.

Read Dr. Doris Rapp’s book, Our Toxic Works: A Wake Up Call. Dr. Rapp has uncovered many ways of exposure to toxins, and how they affect your health, causing many chronic diseases of modern times.

Call to action recommends a decisive consumer action in order to end the destructive inclusion of toxins in baby products. Here are some ways to take action:

  1. Vote with your pocketbook: Until Johnson&Johnson starts producing safer baby products, buy safer alternatives. Search EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database and choose safer products
  2. Contact Johnson&Johnson: Sign the petition to Johnson&Johnson, and require that they remove formaldehyde-releasing ingredients from the baby products in all countries and offer safer alternatives
  3. Write to the Congress: Ask your US Representative to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011