Johnson & Johnson’s ‘no more tears’ shampoo, talc under cancer cloud
DIPU RAI | Thu, 9 Jun 2016-06:50am , New Delhi , dna
Govt body investigates Johnson & Johnson baby products for cancer causing products. The company says it never adds formaldehyde directly to its products
India’s national child rights body has asked five states to test Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and shampoo for asbestos, formaldehyde and other “hazardous chemicals”, casting a shadow over the very two products that evoke images of sweet smelling cherubic babies and have been used by generations of parents.
Putting the trusted baby care brand under a cloud of suspicion, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on May 17 wrote to the chief secretaries of Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan – each state representing a different zone.
The order copy, accessed by dna, asks the states “to collect samples of Johnson & Johnson baby powder and shampoo…forward the samples to a NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accredited government laboratory only for testing the composition of sample.”
It specified that the investigation should focus on the “presence of asbestos (in powder) and formaldehyde (in shampoo) or any other hazardous chemical”. Asbestos and formaldehyde are both carcinogenic.
The test reports should be sent to NCPCR within 30 days of the letter being issued, the order stated. The reports will be put before the expert committee for examination and further course of action will be decided.
“We are waiting for the lab report but I would like to ensure the public at large that we will take stringent action if we find any violation regarding safety norms of these products,” said NCPCR chairperson Stuti Kakar.
The NCPCR’s nationwide probe was prompted by a jury in St Louis in the US state of Missouri in February awarding $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products for feminine hygiene.
Formaldehyde has been identified as a human carcinogen by several experts and government agencies, including the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. A research on occupational exposures and formaldehyde, published in the reputed science journal Elsevier, shows the link between formaldehyde and leukaemia. The study also reports that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a body of World Health Organisation (WHO), recently classified formaldehyde as a human carcinogen that causes nasopharyngeal cancer.
Talcum powder is made of talc – a mineral of hydrated magnesium silicate. It is widely used in personal care products like facial powder, adult body powder and baby powder along with in other many consumer products. In natural form, some talc contains a form of amphibole asbestos known as Tremolite. IARC has classified Talc that contains asbestos as ‘carcinogenic to human’.
Johnson & Johnson view
Defending itself, a Johnson & Johnson India spokesperson said they had not received any query on baby powder and shampoo from government of India’s child protection body.
“Johnson & Johnson has always taken questions about the safety of our products extremely seriously. We want to assure everyone that all our products meet the highest quality, purity and compliance standards. They also meet or exceed government standards in the countries where they are sold, as well the US and EU cosmetic ingredient safety guidelines, or whichever is stricter when they differ,” the spokesperson said.
The statement went on to say, "Unfortunately, the jury’s decision goes against 30 years of studies by medical experts around the world that continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc. Multiple scientific and regulatory reviews have determined that talc is safe for use in cosmetic products and the labelling on Johnson’s Baby Powder is appropriate. For over 100 years, Johnson & Johnson has provided consumers with a safe choice for cosmetic powder products and we will continue to work hard to exceed consumer expectations and evolving product preferences. We understand that women and families affected by ovarian cancer are searching for answers, and we deeply sympathize with all who have been affected by this devastating disease with no known cause. We will appeal the recent verdict and continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.
“We never add formaldehyde directly to our products, and from 2015 even the formaldehyde-releasers have been removed from our products, worldwide.”
What is formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde, traditionally known as methanal, is a colourless, strong-smelling gas used in a wide range of products, including building materials, walls and cabinets and personal care products. In personal care products, formaldehyde can be added directly or in the form of chemical preservative such as quaternium-15.
People are exposed to formaldehyde, along with other means like tobacco smoke and household products, by using products of personal care. In products of personal care formaldehyde may be released in the gas form and can be inhaled or can be absorbed through skin or through accidental ingestion.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral. Research has shown that exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of asbestosis – a respiratory disease, and mesothelioma – a type of cancer. US Department of Health and Human Services, the US Environment Protection Agency and IARC have classified asbestos as known human Carcinogen.