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Johnson And Johnson’s "Big Bubblin' Stars" Campaign Promotes Toxic Baby Products?

With much fanfare Johnson and Johnson has announced their “Big Bubblin’ Stars” Campaign to promote their baby bath products. And boy, are they all over the place!

The company is launching a “Big Bubblin’ Stars” contest on YouTube behind its recently launched bubble-bath product, offering a grand prize of $10,000 and a chance for the winner to become host of a channel launched in 2005. To enter the contest, moms upload three-minute videos of their kids.

They’ve recruited hundreds of Mommy bloggers through Mom Central and, included the Wal-Mart Eleven Moms to promote the campaign.

Problem is…just this month The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics released a report, “No More Toxic Tub”. Lab test conducted by EWG found both Johnsons’ Baby Shampoo and two of their Baby washes include formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane, both ingredients linked to cancer and skin allergies.

Problem is…just this week a major supermarket, in CHINA of all places, pulled J&J products from their shelves over concerns about carcinogens and parents in China are REALLY upset!

Problem is…should J&J be going ahead with this campaign? J&J issued a carefully crafted statement to the 69.4 percent of Chinese parents who said THEY WOULD NOT BUY Johnson & Johnson baby products and 65.6 percent said they believed the products contained toxic ingredients. Yes, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo meets FDA regulations, but, well…do I need to go there?

I think Johnson and Johnson should take a step back, cancel the campaign and reassess the situation and the findings of The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics prior to proceeding. The folks in marketing at Johnson and Johnson are Moms too and we all want what is safe for our babies.

Join the effort to make J&J see the light on Twitter. Use the hashtag, #toxicJ&J. I already have!


  1. I have a better idea. How about taking a second look at the claims by the activists, like these folks did at teh following links, qualified professionals who concluded that Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, along with all the other products tested, are safe:



    This “campaign” is bogus from top to bottom.

  2. Eric,

    Thanks so much for commenting! I’m glad someone from The Formaldehyde Council is following up on this issue.

    As I mention in my post, my thought is…should Johnson and Johnson reassess whether this is a good time to do this campaign. Rather than go through the usual, “he said”/”she said” activity, it would be nice to have a review of the facts and some relevant information.

    Gee, what if J&J (A company I admire) contacted the EWG and discussed the findings? I think we have come to a point in the green movement and an environment where constructive conversation can take the place of radicalism.

    Let’s open the doors to working together!

  3. This is a great post and I couldn’t agree more!

  4. It is curious that the prior commenter relies on what amounts to an opinion column and a “news” article from a traditional conservative group as “qualified professionals” that have determined the products are safe.

    Or perhaps he is relying on the cited references – such as the FDA that we all know has not taken an active role in regulating the safety of the cosmetic industry.

    Or perhaps he is relying on the EU’s Cosmetic Directive, which requires warnings for products containing formaldehyde more than 500 ppm and bans 1,4 dioxane as an ingredient?

    In any event, the report doesn’t purport to conclude that children are being decisively harmed as a result of these exposures. Instead, it merely points out that the kids bath products contain 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. Whether exposures are occuring and at what level is subject to debate. But it is not subject to debate that 1,4-dioxane is a probable human carcinogen. Nor is it subject to debate that formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen and known allergen, causing skin reactions, among other reactions. When you consider all the other sources of exposure to formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, parents may want to choose bath products don’t contain these ingredients, or phthalates or parabens or some other problemmatic ingredients. So what is important is education and information, especially since 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde are usually contaminants and aren’t listed as ingredients.

  5. I think that Jennifer is right on by makign the point that it isn’t just about the ingredients being harmful in one product but the exposure of the known carcinogens and the use over time and contined exposure. It’s not as though a child takes a bath once a week and uses no lotions or other products. There is a larger picture to be looked at. Trust a non-profit agency with no hidden agendas but to disclose truths and let others decide for themselves or an opinion.

    It’s very clear why we need to reevaluate what is in personal care products and support the Kid Safe Chemical Act. Companies like J&J that spend millions on marketing campaigns can make their products safer. What was okay 20 years ago might not fly now and we as consumers want to trust the companies and have transparency.

    Instead of fighting and saying that it is okay and the the EWG’s report is bogus – can’t we learn from it? Should companies like J&J (they are one example) be improving verses defending. They’re defense with the FDA is pretty weak.

  6. Jennifer — The links I provided pointed out specific problems with the Campaign’s claims, details that could only be ferreted out once somebody took a closer look at the report, rather than just regurgitate the executive summary.

    As for questioning motives, why not question the motive of the Environmental Working Group, the real muscle behind the Campaign? After all, it was EWG who released the details of the Kid-Safe Chemical Act in the wake of the Campaign’s report in order to capitalize on the hysteria it created.

    Again, the bottom line is that these products are safe, and the Campaign’s claims are bogus. To pass their charges on without looking at them critically is irresponsible.

  7. EWG doesn’t need to “capitalize” on hysteria. It’s not like they’re selling “safe” baby products or anything. I would say that companies such as J&J have a much larger stake in the publication (or not) of these findings.

    Plus, Eric writes a blog that is apparently pro-formaldehyde, though he is not so open to discussion, as he hasn’t published my comment I posted there, basically stating that there are many avenues for formaldehyde exposure, including furniture, glues and solvents, clothing and textiles, and body care products. Numerous independent studies have shown this, and have also shown that they have a stronger effect on children, whether it’s lung damage or other carcinogenic effects.
    Im not sure I trust the FDA in their big “A-OK!” on this. They are obviously severely underfunded and understaffed. And actually (by their own admission) have little regulatory power when it comes to ANYthing with cosmetics.
    “The FDA cannot require companies to test products for safety before they are sold, does not systematically review the safety of ingredients and does not set limits for common, harmful contaminants in products.”

    As for the rest of us, we have no stake either in making sure these products are safe. Wait…yes we do! Our children’s health.

  8. Cate–

    There are no “findings.” As my Health News Digest article argues, the methodology was completely wrong, but more than that, formaldehyde in low quantities is very necessary in these products as a preservative.

    Absent that, bacteria can grow and have been known to cause blindness in extreme cases.

    EWG are anti-chemical lunatics, and are frightfully ignorant of the science. And please–OF COURSE they have to capitalize on hysteria. That’s how they raise money!

    J&J and all the big companies do not tend to comment on these matters. I think that is a mistake, but they listen to their craven attornyes, as they keep getting beat up.

    Formaldehyde is what makes the product safe!


  9. Maryanne–

    EWG knows that J&J won’t meet with them. Personally, I think they should, and that these groups should be “outed” as the fear entreprenuers they are.

    But the bigs do not fight back, except via their trade associations. In the meantime, millions of people who are scared send in their contributions to these charlatans and the beat goes on.

  10. Cate — my apologies for missing your comment at Formaldehyde Facts. I’ve since published it.

    Then again, you seem to be missing my point. Decades of established science have concluded that the trace amounts of free formaldehyde off-gassed from products like these are harmless. That’s not a cavalier conclusion, but one backed up by decades of established science.

    Other points that need to be made here:

    * Formaldehyde is off-gassed from these products because they contain biocides that are used to prevent the products from spoiling. Without these biocides, these products could become petri dishes for all sorts of microorganisms. So, if this effort to remove those substances was successful, you would make the products less safe.

    * Please take a closer look at the Health News Digest piece. In it, Michael Shaw points out that EWG used a testing method that would necessarily result in test results indicating higher levels of formaldehyde than were actually being off-gassed by these products.

    When it comes to the safety of these products, again, I need to stress that EWG is the party being reckless here. They have offered no peer-reviewed or documented medial evidence that anyone has been harmed by these products and that’s a fact no one can dispute. If an organization like EWG is going to accuse a company of poisoning children, the burden of proof ought to be on them to present some evidence that it’s actually occurred.

  11. EWG as anti-chemical lunatics? Where did the intelligent debate go here? As far as I can tell, the EWG is full of committed, concerned scientists, activists, researchers and writers interested in public health.

    Everyone seems stuck on the small amounts and the studies that may prove that one chemical in isolation is safe– but we all know the world doesn’t work that way. Parents are looking at the big picture, because no one else is (or very few– the EWG is).

    Thanks for this post!

  12. J&J may have the money – but we have the blogosphere. Let’s use it to raise the “green” flag about the ingredients in their products (and others) and press for stronger laws and regulations. And of course – we can use our consumer clout just to stop buying the darn stuff in the first place!

  13. Katy–

    They ARE anti-chemical lunatics if they

    a) Don’t understand the vital importance of preservatives in these products

    b) Use a lab that cannot do the testing properly–and is the same lab that they used in their idiotic 2007 campaign that air fresheners will kill you

    Of course, they are “dedicated,” but they are just wrong–and there are, sadly, plenty more like them.

    Even NPR–hardly a pro-industry outfit–ran a long piece yesterday on how all the anti-phthalates work proved to be just nonsense. Whoops, that was after these necessary plasticizers have been effectively banned.

    Thank “dedicated” scientist like Shanna Swan for that one. Oh, and the chemicals that have substitued for the phthalates have little history, but are already implicated in animal kidney damage. Unlike phthalates, which have an unblemished 50-year history, with thousands of studies on them.

    EWG, NRDC, and all the rest are just fear entrepreneurs trying to raise money. They also exploit the naive kids, who do most of their grunt work.

  14. I see that the formaldehyde reps are making the rounds. Not sure how you guys live with yourselves, but, hey – to each their own.

    It’s hard to fathom why anyone would think it’s OK to put the same product on a baby that we fill cadavers with. Weirdness.

  15. this is getting ridiculous…maybe we can send all our unused J&J products to the formaldehyde activists & they can soak in it–I hear you can get high off it (maybe this explains their advocacy of hcho)…at mortuary school we were told pregnant women should not embalm dead bodies using formaldehyde (though I know one who did with a gas mask) due to the possibility of birth defects/carcinogenic effects on a developing fetus in utero…so why would anyone want to soak their babies directly in it…please, these chemists can use their skills at brilliant innovation to come up with a safer preservative…contact lense sln manufacturers had to find an alternative to the mercury preservative thimerosal that caused many eye problems (~15yrs ago)…it’s not brain surgery (hopefully)–>make a safe product! supply the demand!

  16. Wow! Maryanne, you’ve started quite a debate here.

    It’s one thing if J&J has decided not to meet with the EWG – but they should address the larger issue raised here – multiple exposures to multiple carcinogens over many years starting in infancy. J&J is a company with a caring image. Why are they being so silent about this? The “We comply with FDA regs” line they are hiding behind won’t cut it.

  17. does anyone know if Johnson&Johnson baby products can be returned for reimbursement???

  18. I think Johnson and Johnson has done a wonderful job in providing safe products. I have raised 5 children and 24 grandchildren and the only products I will ever use is Johnson and Johnson. I stand behind them 100%.


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