Johnson & Johnson Nods Support for Safe Chemicals Act, Tries to Reassure Label-Reading Parents

Household name Johnson & Johnson is publicly supporting some version of the Safe Chemicals Act while it makes global headlines for easing concerns over ingredients in lotions, shampoos and more. You may have heard that the popular personal care product maker has extended its commitment to phase out certain chemicals of concern and limit others in all of its products by 2015.  This, after pledging a similar phase-out last fall for its baby products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is praising J & J for its leadership, while still looking for more corporate responsibility from competitors in the personal care product industry.  The Safe Cosmetics Act would require the Food and Drug Administration to watch out for product safety, while the Safe Chemicals Act addresses similar concerns by asking the Environmental Protection Agency do its job.  Spokesperson Alex Formuzis with the Environmental Working Group commented, "Public interest groups, their supporters and the general public must keep up the pressure if we're to see real change from industry on behalf of public health, like this landmark decision by J & J."  Since public policy hasn't kept pace with the science that, for instance, shows some chemicals cause suspicious hormone disruption to our bodies at surprisingly low levels, EWG and the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Coalition of more than 300 citizen groups have been rallying for both government and industry to clean up their act.

When I posed the question to Susan Nettesheim, Global Product Steward and Chief Toxicologist for Johnson & Johnson, "Does J & J support the Safe Chemicals Act?"  here's how she responded:  "We agree with parts of the act, and we are in support of increased federal regulation of cosmetics.  We are encouraging legislators on all sides of the issue to come together to pass bi-partisan legislation."

Another J & J spokesperson explained to FlourSackMama.com that the company wants to ensure that any replacement ingredients are just as safe and effective as the ones they'll be phasing out over the next couple of years -- one reason for this being a long process.  She stressed that the company is concerned about both short and long-term safety of its products.  The company's website stresses what it calls a "safety & care commitment" as well as transparency about ingredients.

I asked Nettesheim if the company's ongoing product testing would adhere to the precautionary principle.  She answered, "Yes, we always follow the precautionary principle."  This better-safe-than-sorry approach, the reason several other countries already have different formulations of personal care products than the United States does, is at the core of the  Safe Chemicals Act and Safe Cosmetics Act.

You can find more details and reaction about J & J's bold move to reassure consumers at these websites:
Women's Voices for the Earth
Breast Cancer Fund
The Story of Cosmetics
Safety and Care Commitment (J & J)