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ENTON, N.J. -- Two chemicals considered harmful to babies remain in Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo sold in the U.S., even though the company already makes versions without them, according to a coalition of health and environmental groups.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has unsuccessfully been urging the world's largest health care company for 2 1/2 years to remove the trace amounts of potentially cancer-causing chemicals – dioxane and a substance called quaternium-15 that releases formaldehyde – from Johnson's Baby Shampoo, one of its signature products.
Johnson & Johnson said it is reducing or gradually phasing out the chemicals, but did not respond directly to the campaign's demands.
Now the group is ratcheting up the pressure and urging consumers to boycott Johnson & Johnson baby products until the company agrees to remove the chemicals from its baby products sold around the world.
"Johnson & Johnson clearly can make safer baby shampoo in all the markets around the world, but it's not doing it," said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. "It's clearly a double standard, something they can easily fix."
Archer said her group has met with Johnson & Johnson representatives three times since spring 2009, and is disappointed the company is not making safer baby shampoo and other products in the U.S. when it does elsewhere.
On Monday, the campaign sent Johnson & Johnson a letter, signed by about 25 environmental, medical and other groups representing about 3.5 million people in the U.S. and other countries. It urges the company to publicly commit by Nov. 15 to removing the chemicals from all personal care products worldwide.
In response, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are safe and approved by regulators in the U.S. and other countries, but that it is gradually phasing them out of its baby products. It said it is also reformulating baby products to reduce the level of dioxane below detectable levels. But it did not say whether it would respond to or meet the campaign's full demands.
The letter, addressed to CEO William Weldon, was signed by groups including the Breast Cancer Fund, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Green America.