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Greenwashing Beauty BrandsNatural, Healthy Advice for Babies and Children

Greenwashing in Baby Washing: The Johnson & Johnson Cancer Lawsuit Isn’t a Surprise

By February 25, 2016October 20th, 201816 Comments

What parents need to know about their “safe” baby products

Editor’s note: Our author, Sarita Coren, had completed this article several months prior to the lawsuit in which Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million as damages to a family who sued the corporation stating their mother’s death from cancer was directly related to her use of their talcum powder products. It comes as no surprise to any of us here at Green Beauty Team that private companies are finally being held liable for creating products with un-safe ingredients. In fact, we think it’s about time!

J&J gets our Greenwashing stamp because they are misleading about safety and purity in their marketing.

J&J’s Not So Gentle or Safe Baby Shampoo

I remember back in the early ‘70s when Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo was a bathtime staple. I also remember having painful, recurring ear infections as a child. Until 2007, I never made the connection.

Fast forward 30 years later, as I listened open-mouthed to a wellness presentation. The speaker mentioned that J&J’s popular shampoo may have been the culprit of numerous health issues due to a highly caustic ingredient: Quaternium-15, a releaser of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Here’s what is disturbing about the revelation. The “No More Tears” tagline reassured moms across America that this product would never sting eyes and promised to be gentle on baby’s precious scalp and skin.

The image projected was of a company that could be trusted. The reality was that the shampoo did sting my eyes—and that’s not even the half of it.

What moms didn’t know at the time was that this safe shampoo from Johnson & Johnson may have been connected not only to ear infections, as the suds entered the ear canal, but also to cradle cap and numerous side effects due to sulfates and other potentially harmful ingredients in the formula. Heck, this so-called gentle baby shampoo may have been linked to cancer!

Consumer Pressure to Reformulate

By 2012, Johnson & Johnson took note and announced its commitment to reformulate, after much pressure from consumer lobby organizations like Women’s Voices for the Earth. It was a bold and costly move and the first of its kind for a large corporation. It also held significant implications.

The decision begged the question: how can we rely on marketing claims for safety in our products? If anything, J&J’s decision to change its formula served as a reluctant admission that we can’t.

Johnson & Johnson Cancer Lawsuit: Charged With Negligence

Recent headlines show Johnson & Johnson is not in the clear.  This time, the culprit is the widely used and benign looking talcum powder. The jury awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer, which she said was caused by using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and other products containing talcum.

What came to light and is even more disturbing is that the company knew about the risks all along.

How many more cases do we need to see before we take action?

Even when a regulating body like the FDA is involved, it is no guarantee that the consumer is protected from exposure to potentially life-threatening ingredients.

Actually, the industry is rife with questionable profit-making motives at the expense of our good health. J&J merely provides one example.

Price Doesn’t Equal Safety or Quality

The grocery store, drugstore, and department store shelves are stacked with a ridiculously long list of examples—regardless of how much the product costs.

The more expensive items don’t automatically translate into better ingredients. Sadly, this dilemma applies to food too, but that’s a whole other post.

What’s hard to believe is that companies would knowingly choose ingredients that may be harmful because they’re cheap and accessible without thoroughly testing them for safety.

Yet the question operates at the forefront of my mind every time I need to decide what products to buy for my family.

Researching Safe Baby Products

Fortunately, I researched my facts while my children were infants and their tub time experiences (and beyond) looked quite different.

The information that I have at my fingertips today was not available to consumers up until just a few years ago. We can thank the efforts of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group, and of course Green Beauty Team. These online resources blow the whistle on big companies for their misleading marketing claims and detrimental ingredients. Now people like us can gain access to valuable research and information with a mere click of the button.

It’s no joke that information is power. It also empowers us with greater responsibility to make informed choices and choose brands that support the public welfare, not only their own pockets.

Choosing Natural, Safe Baby Products and Brands

My product preferences gravitate to indie brands that use ingredients that are considered safe. These are conscious businesses that prioritize our health by using organic or natural ingredients that are sourced ethically and responsibly, in addition to making a low environmental impact.

While many are not yet found on shelves at your local store, they are slowly trickling in. Target has been a front-runner in paving the road to giving these brands a space in their stores nationwide or online.

These smaller companies are gradually clearing up the convoluted beauty and skincare industry on a larger scale—one product at a time.

By supporting them, our collective purchasing power creates change that makes a lasting impact on the health of our future generations and on our world.

In the next post, I’ll be recommending some of my favorite brands that I’ve been using on my own family. I’ve never once missed the conventional products thanks to their performance!

Has reading this changed the way you think of J&J’s iconic products and does it have you reconsidering other brands? Let us know in the comments below!

Sarita Coren

Author Sarita Coren

Sarita Coren is a holistic mom of five with more than 20 years of experience in the health and wellness field. Dubbed “the godmother of green beauty” by industry insiders. When she’s not capturing green beauty products on her lively Instagram account @saritacoren, you’ll find her connecting industry tastemakers, offering small brands her photography services, and writing about all things healthy living. She loves being over 45 and (mostly) stopped counting her grey hairs, even the two in her eyebrows.

More posts by Sarita Coren

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