Recently I came across a story in which health campaigners are urging a boycott of Johnson & Johnson due to their Baby Shampoo. The reason for concern is J&J’s use of the preservative Quaternium-15 which works by releasing formaldehyde to kill bacteria. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can also cause skin irritation. Quaternium-15 is used in many skin and cosmetic products because it extends shelf life by prevention spoiling and contamination; however, it is the single most common cause of contact dermatitis of the hands. Why would Johnson & Johnson think that anyone would want to put this on their babies’ skin?
Formaldehyde releasers are a class of antimicrobial preservatives used in many skin and cosmetic products. There are many different examples of formaldehyde releasers, and their name explains what they do. They trigger the release of formaldehyde from other chemicals in the products as a chemical reaction, so you will not necessarily see formaldehyde on the ingredient list of your favorite cosmetics. I mean, seriously, who would buy eye shadow that they knew contained formaldehyde? Yet that is what we are getting in many cases. EWG’s Skin Deep Database reveals that over 100 different facial powder, blush, and eye shadows by Cover Girl contain Quaternium-15. Mascara containing the preservative could be found by many common names such as Almay and Maybelline. Further research into a cleanser that I once tried revealed that my extreme allergic reaction to it was probably due to my formaldehyde allergy as it contains a different formaldehyde releaser. It took three months of trips to the dermatologist and multiple prescriptions to heal my face from one application of that product.
I find myself going back to the Skin Deep Database and the Environmental Working Group’s website again and again. It is a wealth of great scientific, unbiased information aimed at informing and protecting consumers. Makers of the products in the database are not required by law to reveal all of the ingredients in their products. They claim “trade secret” when asked for specifics, but careful testing can reveal the hidden dangers in too many products. I challenge you to use the database to learn more about things that you use every day. You might want to re-evaluate your choices after you do. Fortunately, I researched baby care products two years ago before my middle child was born. I found that most of the well known brands were not at a safety level that I was comfortable with for my kids. I chose to go with an eco-friendly, kid-safe tearless cleanser and shampoo that EWG gives high marks. I was also able to find a skin care and cosmetic line that is formaldehyde-free that I totally love.
The health campaigners encouraging the boycott of Johnson & Johnson are right. There’s no place for harmful chemicals in our children’s products. But I will go one step further. There’s no place for harmful chemicals in ANYONE’S products. Living green means not only protecting our planet but protecting those who live here, too. I vote with my pocketbook by not giving my “green” to companies who do not respect the environment and environmental health. Actions speak louder than words.
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