Giants of industry move toward healthier products


flickr @judith511It started in 2012 when Johnson & Johnson pledged to eliminate phthalates, triclosan, formaldehyde and parabens from its product line which includes Aveeno, Neutrogena, and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. They have already removed triclosan from their baby products.  The target date for the entire phase out is the end of 2015.

Then, earlier this month, the world’s largest personal care company, Proctor & Gamble, announced its plan to eliminate triclosan and diethyl phthalate (DEP) from all of its products.  The process is well underway and should be complete by 2014.  P&G cleaning products like Tide, Cascade and Dawn, and cosmetic brands CoverGirl, Pantene, and Crest, will meet the firm’s new requirements.  See the complete list of P&G brands. At present, P&G plans to reduce but not eliminate 1,4-Dioxane and parabens.

And the hits just keep on coming!  This week, Walmart, the largest retailer in the world,

“announced a plan to phase out 10 hazardous chemicals in cleaning, personal-care, and cosmetic products sold at the store, although the company did not disclose the specific chemicals…The initiative also includes ingredient disclosure for Walmart’s suppliers… [who] must provide online ingredient disclosure for products sold at Walmart starting in January 2015. In January 2016, Walmart will begin publicly reporting its progress on eliminating and reducing the 10 chemicals, and, in January 2018, suppliers must begin disclosing the chemicals on packaging.”

Walmart’s Policy on Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables states “Walmart customers expect products that are safe, affordable and sustainable.”

Since 2006 Walmart has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to make its products safer.  “In the coming months and years, EDF will closely monitor and verify the reduction of hazardous chemicals and shift to safer ingredients in products, ensuring the promise for healthier products becomes a reality.”

Concerned consumers and environmental organizations are joining forces, pressing congress, manufacturers and retailers to eliminate hazardous chemicals from household and personal care products.  At Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, EWG and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families there are ongoing campaigns challenging Target, Avon, Walgreens, L’Oreal, Revlon and others to follow the example set by Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, and Walmart.

These chemicals have been singled out for action because they are associated with significant health concerns and are found in a vast array of products with which babies, children and adults, including pregnant women, have regular, repeated contact in their homes.

ChemicalMajor UsesWhere It's FoundHealth ConcernsTips
TriclosanAntimicrobialLiquid antibacterial soaps, body washes, deodorants, toothpaste, toys, knives, cutting boards, dishwashing liquids.In animal studies triclosan alters hormone regulation. Triclosan may contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. SourceThoroughly wash hands with regular soap and water. Think before buying antibacterial, antimicrobial, or triclosan-containing products.
Phthalates such as diethyl phthalate (DEP) SourcePlasticizer i.e. makes plastic more flexible. Building materials, clothing, cosmetics, nail products, perfumes, food packaging, toys, vinyl products, and medical applications. SourceEndocrine disruptors or hormonally-active agents (HAAs). Increased incidence of developmental abnormalities. The most sensitive system is the immature male reproductive tract. SourceLook for plastic products marked "phthalate-free" or "PVC-free" and avoid plastics with recycling code #3. Avoid household cleaners and cosmetics with "fragrance" on the label. Source
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservativesPreservativeSome shampoos, liquid body soaps, nail products, personal care products, hair-straightening treatments. Pressed wood products. Some paints and glues. Used to make clothing and textiles "permanent press."Classified as a human carcinogen. Possible asthmagen (children are especially sensitive).
Source 1
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Many common preservatives may release formaldehyde into products (like DMDM hydantoin, quaternium, and urea compounds). Avoid stain- and wrinkle-resistant clothing.
1,4-DioxaneA solvent. 1,4-Dioxane is not intentionally added, but may occur as a contaminant or byproduct in some ingredients. Not required to be listed as an ingredient on the label. SourceMost often found in products that create suds, like shampoo, liquid body wash, and bubble bath. Also in hair relaxers.US EPA classifies as a probable human carcinogen. California EPA lists as a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant. Considered an animal carcinogen. SourceUsually found at low levels but repeated exposures from many different products add up. Read labels and limit:
- Sodium laureth sulfate
- PEG (polyethylene glycol)
- polyethylene
- polyoxyethylene
- -eth
- -oxynol



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