Two ingredients that have the potential to cause cancer are used, in at least trace amounts, in Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo that is sold in the United States: dioxane and quaternium-15. Quaternium-15 release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Johnson & Johnson already manufactures a baby shampoo without these ingredients, but it is marketed in countries other than the United States.
Over the last two and a half years, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been urging Johnson & Johnson to eliminate the formaldehyde-producing chemicals from its popular baby shampoo. Until recently, Johnson & Johnson has held firm to the belief that it's baby shampoo was not a dangerous or defective product, stating that the preservatives are safe and meet U.S. regulatory standards.
But, Johnson & Johnson has finally changed its tune and will be phasing out the formaldehyde-producing preservative from its baby shampoo and working to lower dioxane to an undetectable amount.
Low-Level Chemicals and the Risk to Newborn Consumers
Formaldehyde was deemed a known cancer-causing agent by the U.S. National Toxicology Program in June. Typical uses of formaldehyde are as an embalming fluid and disinfectant. Formaldehyde can also irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory system. It has been linked to nose and lung cancers as well as blood cancers like leukemia.
Dioxane is believed to have the potential to cause cancer; it is considered a ‘likely carcinogen.’ 1,4-dioxane is a chemical byproduct of a process used to increase a compound’s ability to dissolve in water and to be gentler on the skin. In addition to the original baby shampoo, 1,4-Dioxane was also found in Johnson & Johnson’s Oatmeal Baby Wash and Moisture Care Baby Wash and in Aveeno’s Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash. Johnson’s Naturals Baby Shampoo does not contain 1,4-dioxane.
The risks posed by toxic baby shampoo is increased because a baby’s scalp can more easily absorb the potentially carcinogenic substances than an adult scalp. Even if the shampoo contains only trace amounts of carcinogens, added to what a baby is otherwise exposed to throughout the day, the amount could be quite dangerous.