Johnson & Johnson admits: Our baby products contain cancer-causing formaldehyde

Today, the personal care giant announced that it would voluntarily (after consistent pressure from the public and groups like EWG) remove hidden formaldehyde from their baby products like baby shampoo and baby washes.  Don’t see formaldehyde listed on the back of your bottle of “no more tears” shampoo?  Formaldehyde is “hidden” in these products in ingredient names like “DMDM hydantoin“, and “1,4 dioxane” (which is “hidden” in listed ingredients like “fragrance”.  It’s all a big fun game, you see.).

“There’s a very lively public discussion going on about the safety of ingredients in personal care products,” said Susan Nettesheim, VP for product stewardship and toxicology for J & J.

Lively discussion?  If someone was selling you shampoo for your baby that had cancer causing agents hidden in it, I hardly think the discussion with that person would be “lively”.

About the known cancer causing (as listed on the US EPA carcinogen list) chemicals, Ms Nettesheim says, ““…as a scientist I will sit here and tell you these things are perfectly safe.”  (I wonder what shampoo she uses on her kids)

To J & J’s credit, they are also going to phase out other harmful chemicals like pthalates and parabens which have estrogen-like properties and are suspected to be linked to hormone related cancers.  They plan to phase these chemicals out in their adult brands as well.  Johnson & Johnson also operates under squeaky clean names like Neutrogena, Aveno, and Clean & Clear.

Hopefully this will have a domino effect and other big names will follow.  I would score this as a victory for everyone who wants to wash their kid’s hair without risk of exposing them to carcinogens.

I would advise you to wait to use the new J & J products until you see the big bright labels that say “No more carcinogens!”

The Savvy Sister says ” Your skin is a carrier…NOT a barrier!”


PETER specialises in supporting parent and child relationships and the well-being and fitness of mothers and babies, and especially those babies and children with developmental delay. His certificated Teacher Training Courses in Developmental Baby Massage for professionals working with mothers and babies are given throughout the UK and abroad. These courses attract midwives, health visitors, neonatal nurses and all other therapists working with families and mothers and babies. A pioneer of Developmental Baby Massage and YogaGym from the 1980s onwards. Peter is credited as the original NHS baby massage teacher trainer who’s teacher training resulted in baby massage being offered free to parents in health centres and clinics throughout the United Kingdom. The leading international trainer for Developmental Baby Massage with over 40 years of group teaching experience Peter currently has over 18,000 teachers or more the world over, teaching Developmental Baby Massage. Background Peter has studied yoga and experiential anatomy from the early ‘80’s with his friend and teacher Arthur Balaskas. He worked with a group practicing ‘Psycho- Gymnastics’ and ‘Re- Birthing’ for some ten years under the supervision of R.D. Laing psychiatrist, musician, poet and author and a founder of the Philadelphia Association in London. Peter introduced yoga and massage into a number of Dr. Laing’s therapeutic communities and from the mid-eighties onwards has taught Developmental Baby Massage and Soft Post-Natal Yoga to mothers and babies. Peter teaches a variety of techniques to parents with babies with additional needs - stiffness - floppyness and developmental delay. Peter has made numerous television appearances and has featured in documentaries and breakfast shows on all the UK’s major channels. He's given talks on BBC Radio One, Woman’s Radio, Radio Wales and various other radio stations, and has had articles featured in Woman, Cosmopolitan, Harpers & Queen, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, Japan Times and Australia’s Natural Parenting magazine and many other national publications including most UK ‘mother and baby’ periodicals. His books, sell worldwide and include: Baby Gymnastics with Arthur Balaskas (Unwin) Baby Relax (Unwin) Going for Gold [with DaleyThompson] (Unwin) Natural Parenting (Gaia) The Book of Massage (Gaia) Baby Massage (Piatkus) Hop, Skip and Jump [Gymnastics for Children] (Carroll and Brown) Developmental Baby Massage (Carroll and Brown, Octopus 2014 Sharing Pregnancy E Book 2012 Peter has also made the following films: Baby Massage Step 1 2 and 3 (Little Venice Films) Massage and Movement: Birth to Three Years Sharing Pregnancy [A Unique Film for Fathers] DVD Developmental Baby Massage, DVD Soft Baby Yoga, DVD YogaGym, DVD Stretching Together, DVD Peter works worldwide throughout the United Kingdom and abroad. For more detailed information about his teacher training courses See For advice / treatments Email

86 thoughts on “Johnson & Johnson admits: Our baby products contain cancer-causing formaldehyde

  1. My name is Luke. I live in Shingle Street, United Kingdom.I randomly stumble
    on I just want to say that I liked your blog post about “Johnson & Johnson admits: Our baby products contain cancer-causing formaldehyde “.

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  2. Mmm… did J&J really admit that their baby shampoo causes cancer? Or was that just your libellous rant? I’ll bet that the formaldehyde in their shampoo isn’t half as dangerous as the stupidity and ignorance present in the human race.

  3. I’m so glad I don’t use Johnson products, they made my little girls skin dry. What about the formaldehyde they use in vaccines and mercury, why isn’t it reported in the news? Surely injecting them into a baby/child can be serious.!

  4. Is it all J&J baby products that contain these carcinogens …. shampoo, body wash, lotions, etc.? I always thought I could trust Johnson & Johnson’s. How disappointing.

  5. So, yes, things like formaldehyde occur naturally and as part of our body processes. Yes, the totals from multiple products and our own bodily processes are important factors. This is not an, any of “it” is bad, or just because some occurs naturally it is OK, type of argument. There is some validity to both sides. So it seems we need studies to determine how much of combined carcinogens is “bad for us” because we do have so much exposure to so many things. How much in/out goes on in our bodies without being a problem? How much total are we being exposed to over time, and is that number too high, and if that leads to cancer. We live in a complicated (physically speaking) world. The more complicated our answers become, the more difficult it to answer what seem to be easy questions. Oh, for the more simple days of yore. If you were sick, you either got better, or worse and possibly died. Of course life expectancy was almost half of today’s. Look for some middle ground, and easier to read and more honest lists of ingredients that would allow us to choose where and when we introduce possible carcinogens.

  6. Just because its in alot of stuff doesn’t mean it’s ok… This is one step hopefully ppl will wake up start researching stuff realize why cancer is off the charts these days and start demanding chemical free natural stuff but this article is useless in the fact that blind ingnorant ppl don’t care their the kind of ppl that will argue with your that mic Donald’s and Wendy’s r Not that bad lol,it’s not that hard to live a healthy life style u just can’t be lazy make your own shampoo r u crazy ? Lol I’ve been making my own stuff 4 years cause my children r worth it.

    • “Just because it’s in a lot of stuff doesn’t mean it’s ok.” True. However, that also doesn’t mean it’s not ok. People are so quick to jump on the mass hysteria bandwagon off of a headline without understanding the science behind things. OH- and H+ by themselves are pretty dangerous on ingestion. Add them together and they make water. It makes a difference when you understand the whole story. The same goes with understanding reasons why cancer incidence is much higher than it was in years past. Obesity sure doesn’t help but, in reality, we are living much longer. The older you are the higher the likelihood of developing cancer. The people who would have developed cancer years ago often died from infections, accidents and poor nutrition. They never lived long enough to develop cancer and increase that statistic. And are the ingredients that you use in your homemade shampoo organic? Grown naturally? “Grown naturally” often means in cow manure. I’m not trying to be critical, just open up the discussion to alternate view points.

    • What do you make your shampoo out of? If it is natural products you probably are still putting formaldehyde in your shampoo as it is a natural chemical made in nature i.e. pears and apples have it (and probably a greater amount than what J&J use in their products). What people don’t know is that our own bodies produce and use formaldehyde as a part of our normal metabolism, and it is actually a pretty important chemical — the body uses it to form DNA and amino acids. Before people damn something they should do the research.

  7. I have used these products for years, my mother has used them on me and my sister both, my grandmother and all 5 of her kids, my mother-in-law on my husband and his sister NONE of us have anything wrong with us. This is just probly something dumb Caifornia had them do because ever thing causes cancer over there it’s ridiculous. Nothing’s wrong with any of us and I bet y’all parents and there parents used it and I bet there’s nothing wrong with y’all. That just my opinion tho.

    • Doctors recommend Johnson & Johnson over all other products. Do you think a doctor is going to recommend something that’s going to harm a child in anyway at all. Come on people think a little use your heads other then as a hat rack. People like you all are the reason the world is like this today openin your mouths before you think. The dumb people like this is what pisses me off, how about instead of just opening your mouth about shit you see and hear on tv and the internet do a little research about it and not feed into the rumors that’s trying to be started. Johnson & Johnson has been around for many years and until now people have never said anything about cancer causing chemicles in it, but it seems like everything now days causes cancer. That’s all you hear about someone passed because of cancer because they did this or they used this STOP blaming dumb things. They would not have gotten it if it wasn’t GOD’s plan. He challenges people like this all the time not for you all to blame a product or what they were doing. Think back in the old days when cancer was still very much alive, people didn’t pick something to blame it on like they do now days. PEOPLE STOP AND THINK BEFORE OPENIN YOUR MOUTHS.

  8. Reading blog entries and comments such as these, I am always amazed and incredibly saddened by the utter lack of understanding of basic, fundamental scientific concepts by such a large segment of our society. It’s so unfortunate.

  9. I have to laugh at all the people that continue to mention safe levels in these products. What happens when most of your environment/products/nutrition contain these “safe levels?” It takes simple elementary math to figure it out. All of it adds up to unsafe levels. Also, most chemical compounds created in nature are safe to the environment/humans vs the man made versions or substitutes. People need to actually do research on these additives, man-made vs natural, and stop taking the easy route of claiming conspiracy theory. Find out what is safe from your own research not what is spoon fed from the FDA. How often do you see commercials on TV in re of Medication recalls and the horrific reasons for them. All FDA approved!

  10. Okay so there is some harm in very thing these days apparently. What do you expect us to watch our children in? Water…?! Oh that’s not safe either is it??

  11. i am worried and torn. i have used these products on all 3 of my children and still useing them on my 5mth old baby. i know that almost everything these days causes cancer but if you knew what caused cancers in products im sure you wouldnt apply that on you babys skin. they should have put their ingredients on the lable and not hide it, people should have a right to know what they are putting on babys skin. yes parents can research but most people like myself trust j&j products as its been a #1 brand for years and still used in hospitals. im not understanding why these products are not recalled? i have had people tell me oh i have used these products for years and im ok.. ya well clearly you havent seen the cancer rate sky rocket in the last 20 years, not saying that it all is j&j fault but it definitely dosent help any. i for 1 will not continue to use these products on my children or i untill i can see the lable saying that all these chemicals are gone out of the j&j products. thank you for posting.

    worried mother

  12. I would just like to chime in on this a little bit in regard to those that think it is ok for these agents to be present in hba products because they are present in nature, or because its only “a little bit.” Formaldehyde accumulates in your body. The more you are exposed to it, the more you carry. If “just a little bit” is present *everywhere* then you are in fact being exposed to A LOT. Please keep that in mind. It is not necessary to use formaldehyde releasing agents in hba products, and therefore should not be used, in order to reduce one’s exposure to a known carcinogen that we cannot avoid in other daily interactions….

  13. Yes… marketed to “babies”, so it seems a scandal. How many of you are still eating food cooked on the barbeque? The paint on your walls and the glue holding your flooring is giving off chemicals too. So is that “new car smell”. Why are we picking on J&J? They’re just a company. You are intelligent consumers… go take a look at what’s “naturally” surrounding you daily… let the OCD begin!

  14. Whether we eat formaldehyde or not, the point that is being made here is that J&J has allowed this stuff in their products and are not disclosing it. Parents, whether ignorant or not, deserve to know. Maybe this is a wake up call for some to start really looking into the chemicals in their products. Just because this stuff is on the shelf, doesn’t mean it is safe to use. Just like food. Bottom line is money here, not health.

  15. My little brother started using this stuff when he was born and for the past few months he’s had really bad reaction to it but we didn’t know what it was until this post came out.
    ~CHIPS Admin.
    Find us on FaceBook.

    https://www.facebook dot com/ChipsSEOK(Remove the “dot” and replace it with a .)

  16. When my first daughter was born 14 yrs ago my Pediatrician said he wouldn’t use J+J on his dog! So I used Burt’s Bees and Dove on my daughters. 3 yrs ago I had my third daughter and although J+J has products that take up more space than any other I still hear those words. I am so happy to know this now!

  17. If J&J baby shampoo has cancer causing ingredients, how many babies have cancer as a result of this? How many babies have showed any negative symptoms at all as a result of using this shampoo? Can anyone show any reports of any incidents?

  18. What an absolute disgrace that you put that cancer causing product in baby products and then tried to hide it. Ok so why did you try to hide it …..deeerrr. Ars holes I put that shit on my babies heads I have five kids and six grandchildren they will never ever, ever buy your products again nothing that J@J make ever again, I hope you end up closing down I hope you go broke you bastards. I am so annoyedt that this CANCER CAUSING shit was in it it’s because you have tried to trick people and not tell them what you are doing and they cause cancer OMG what is wrong with you stupid people.

  19. This makes me sick. I’m sure they aren’t the only company putting it in. I’m sure it’s probably in everything. I just don’t understand why this is going on and why quality products are becoming harder and harder to come by these days. In order to avoid the toxins in food and health products, you have to have a lot of time and money to devote to researching it and buying it. Oh, and you probably have to have some smarts too. Ugh. Reading things like this is making me feel very anti-American lately:/

  20. I understand what some of you are saying that our bodies produce this and it’s in minute amounts in foods we eat like fruits, however if you add in using several of these products daily like their shampoo, lotions and detangelers, plus these are typically used on our small children in addition not everyone metabolizes at the same rate this certainly all adds up to an unhealthy amount of formaldehyde. Are you telling me there is not a healthier alternative to use? It’s all about the money and what are the cheapest ingredients that they can use. Shame on you J & J for risking our children’s lives. I’ve trusted your products since as long as I can remember and typically always grab J & J items before others. Sorry for the rant, but I’m so fed up with finding out every other day that products/medications my family use are harmful. Enough already. The FDA needs to step up and start protecting consumers a little better

  21. I have a brand new baby and I am not seeing the new label on her products. When is this supposed to have taken affect? Thanks for your help. I do not want to use these products on her if they are not safe.

  22. No one can really do anything about this issue because the FDA ALLOWS Skincare & cosmetic companies to do this and doesn’t make them list all of their product ingredients. I’m an independent consultant with Arbonne and I would love to share more with anyone about the truth in what you are using in your everyday products and offer you pure, safe and beneficial alternatives for your everyday lives.
    Subject: Arbonne inquiry

  23. After reading the above article I am absolutely appauled to think a company like J n J would do this but in actual fact I’m not surprised after coming across a product the other day that completely left out an ingredient on the bulk product I refuse to use there products because certain ingredients in the products make my babies all sick I’ve avoided there products for a good while n will continue to do so til they baby friendly them

  24. My comment is targeted at the vaccination comment. Yes formaldehyde is used in some vaccinations, but as a nurse I know these are used within the safe legal boundaries in Australia. Yes we are exposing our kids to this lethal chemical, but only in safe doses and the benefits definately outweigh the negatives. Imagine a world without vaccinations. We would all be arguing why these drug companies couldn’t come up with some safe vaccination to protect our children. I agree J & J should have disclosed all ingredients clearly so parents could make an informed decision to use their products, but at the end of the day we have to weigh up the good versus the bad. I don’t believe vaccinations should be considered a bad with all the good they do. As parents we all want to protect our children, therefore it is our job to research the products we use.

    • Nicole,

      Is formaldehyde still safe if the body cann’t get ride of it? What about the build up that occurs after years of use? It WILL reach toxic levels and cause cancer. Please tell me you tell all parents about this risk.

      • Lucinda, there is formaldehyde in vaccinations everywhere, not just in Australia. You must do your own homework because it’s not just in your baby products or your personal care products- it’s in many things, including the vaccinations your doctor gives you. And no, that information is not readily shared. Each company is safe (unless consumers demand change) because they put it in their products (or vaccinations) in “safe” amounts. “Safe” if that’s all you use/consume, but as simple math and logic tell us, a lot of a little of something is actually a lot. Those who produce products with formaldehyde in them are going to talk about how their product is “safe” but we must take into account everything we put into our bodies. We have to be responsible because they are not, and they are not interested in taking responsibility for your health.

      • The body readily breaks formaldehyde into formate, using the enzyme Formaldehyde dehydrogenase (FDH). The reason we have this enzyme is because there is a significant amount of formaldehyde being produced by our bodies already, including as a product of the breakdown of methanol, which is also a byproduct of aspartame breakdown, which comes from fruit.

        Formaldehyde is very volatile and doesn’t last long either in the body or the environment, but is being continually produced by many processes.

  25. Your body produces more formaldehyde than you’d be exposed to using this shampoo. An apple contains more formaldehyde than you’d be exposed to using this shampoo. Read a science book, please.

  26. This is absolutely ridiculous! My son was born on May 29th and that’s all I have been using on him!!!!!! I swear if something happens to my son I’m going to sue! Best believe it. What kind of sick ass people would put this kind of crap in BABY wash? I mean not only are babies using it but I have used it too! Something better be done. Seriously because this is bullcrap! I am one pissed off mother! >:(

    • You cannot possibly put all of the blame on J+J. Is it wrong to use these ingredients in their products. Absolutely!! However you should also look in to what you use on your child. Most mass market, big name personal care products contain these and other harmful ingredients which is why I have not used them in years. Do a little research and you’ll see that there are lots of healthier alternatives. Little Twig and Earth Mama Angel Baby are a few great brands for kids.

      • Right, cause it’s not like a new parent of a brand new baby has nothing better to do than to research what Tocopheryl Acetate, Tetrasodium EDTA and Vitis Vinifera is because it’s in their baby’s body wash or lotion and by the way, I took those ingrediant examples straight off my Victoria Secret lotion body. Get a grip, how dare you blame a parent for “not doing their homework” and assuming a product which has been around for how long should be safe for their baby. Johnson and Johnson happens to be one of the only products I can use on my son that doesn’t break him out with eczema flare ups. I’m just as upset as the next person, but do not even try and make me feel guilty because I have been using what works and not reading ridiculous ingrediants on the back of a bottle. I’m a single parent of a special needs child, I don’t and shouldn’t have time for that if the FDA, FBI, DMV, CDC WHATEVER would keep an eye out here.

    • Could you be any more dramatic about this? Formaldehyde is found everywhere. its a naturally occurring chemical. If this makes you uncomfortable stop using it.

    • Please don’t worry. This is very likely to be a scare story, designed to benefit the EWG and alternative product manufacturers (the EWG is a notoriously unreliable body – no scientist I know rates it at all. They have a lot to gain from setting up scare stories and then setting themselves up as the protectors).

      Please don’t think you have harmed your baby. It’s awful that there are companies making parents fear that they have done. Formaldehyde occurs naturally in many of the foods we eat and it’s highly unlikely to be in those products at anything other than trace amounts. Well, there are trace amounts of carcinogenic things everywhere – even in your own body. And unless you get exposed to toxic amounts, you will be just fine.

      In toxicological sense, it’s the dose that makes the poison (and the method of exposure). Even water isn’t categorically safe (if you are exposed to it via your lungs, you drown, or if you drink too much of it in one go, you will die).

      • And who benefits from attempting to “debunk” or diminish the importance of information like this? Companies like J&J. As for the argument that formaldehyde is found in nature so that makes it ok for it to be in skin care products, I say this: cyanide is naturally occurring in nature, as well (apple seeds and such) but I’m not going to rub it all over my kids’ skin.
        The CDC says of formaldehyde “Formaldehyde is absorbed through intact skin and may cause irritation or allergic dermatitis; rapid metabolism makes systemic effects unlikely following dermal exposure.

        Children are more vulnerable to toxicants absorbed through the skin because of their relatively larger surface area:body weight ratio.” (
        My argument is that the US has seen skyrocketing rates of cancer and cancer-related deaths in children and we should limit our children’s exposure to known carcinogens as much as possible. There are traditional ingredients used for body care that are still abundantly available today. In my opinion it is irresponsible for *any* company or individual to try and excuse the use of carcinogens, endocrine disruptors (i.e. parabens), etc. in any product for the sake of profit.

  27. Formaldehyde is safe in small amounts. It’s in fruits and vegetables and is produces by the human body. It’s only carcinogenic in large, industrial amounts.

    • Excactly. I find it worrying that there are organisations who deliberately distort science and facts for monetary gain. For so many of the people who are very quick to believe large corporations are out to poison them on purpose, there should also be questions: “who stands to gain from scaring us to death?”

  28. Hidden subtle chemical poisoning. Really are you surprised!!!Do J&J care about you, me or our children. They are our precious babies their precious baby is the bottom line. Time to wake up I think.

    • I use coconut oil as an all-natural, affordable baby lotion (smells delish too!), and Miessence certified organic products (to food grade standards), for shampoo and soaps.

    • Heidi,
      There are many brands out there that are “green” and “safe” but I found the most trusted is Melaleuca. I’ve been using it for 12 years and will never stop.

    • This is the reason why these scare stories are so beneficial. People rush to find alternative (more expensive) “safe” products… but in the end nothing is categorically safe; you have to assess the risk for everything on a case-per-case basis.

      If you look around for who benefits from generating scare stories, it’s the manufacturers of alternative ingredients and products, plus organisations like the EWG (who make a lot of money from selling “safe shopping” guides and getting donations from worried parents who think EWG is protecting them).

      This story is highly unlikely to be anything to worry about. There is naturally occurring formaldehyde in many foods you eat:

      In toxicological sense, it’s the dose that makes the poison (and the method of exposure). Even water isn’t categorically safe (if you are exposed to it via your lungs, you drown, or if you drink too much of it in one go, you will die).

  29. The first feeling that popped into me after reading this, OMG!!! I am using this shampoo for 5 years now on my boy!!! Why aren’t people reacting to this? Why haven’t retailers taken these products off there shelves?? I don’t understand. Johnston & Johnston is so popular & the minute there’s a newborn, people opt to buy J&J products. Unbelievable, yet its true.

    • I have never used a Johnson & Johnson product and never would. So not everyone does this. I use organic and natural products only since my 4 year old was a new born.

    • They did take the products of the shelves a few years back… but changed nothing and put all them products back up for sale… sad world… these people probably have children of their own n clearly dont give a shit about the rest of the world

  30. I used to use all of these on my son, and i cant believe this has just come to light, and this company has been going for years, why has this not come to light sooner??

    i will be letting all my friends and family know about this, its a disgrace, i will also be telling them not to use it on their children and will be letting my parents know not to use it on my son as they look after him once a month as they live far away, and i will share this on facebook also, i think this is disgusting and should of been dealt with sooner, Cancer is a huge thing in adults as well as children and my child is my world and if anything to occur, whilst using these products i would be suing and asking for a lot as this is wrong and should of been seen sooner, and i should think that other parents would feel the same about their children to

    • That is scary! If the chemical formula is eating-through stainless steel just think what it is doing to your poor baby’s head when the carcinogenic formula is slathered onto it!!! You say you love your baby, would not purposely harm it, don’t want it to contract cancer later, etc. Then we as consumers who are not adequately protected by the FDA now or in the future must learn from the Naturopaths who are trying to educate those who do not know the true dangers of what the FDA is knowingly turning a blind eye to with a wink-wink and a handshake under-the-table! We are sheeple, like lambs being led to our slaughter. I am thankful that J&J is admitting to the harmful chemicals and is promising to remove them since being publicly exposed and pressured by this Watchdog group, but it may be too little too late! The skin is the largest organ in the body, so what you slather on it absorbs through the pores and goes straight into the bloodstream which circulates it throughout your body, thus increasing the risk of carcinogenic chemicals damaging body cells and causing cancer. Buyer beware! Listen when the EWG tells you it has exposed another dangerous practice and is educating the public to its findings. You may be saving your baby’s health and wellbeing as well as your own…

      • Do you know what other baby shampoo and body wash I should use? I am currently using J&J and after reading this article I won’t be using it anymore!

    • Ever let kids swim in a pool? The chlorine in the pool will also eat through 316 stainless steel. Not saying the No More Tears shampoo is more or less safe, just that the fact it eats through stainless steel doesn’t necessarily mean much. For what it’s worth, I work for a manufacturer of 316 stainless steel tubing, and have for years, so I’m familiar with the material and it’s possible I produced the very tubes you refer too.

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