The preservative quaternium-15 is one of the ingredients of the Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo line, warned The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics on Tuesday. While you have probably never heard of this specific preservative, the name formaldehyde will be more familiar to you. It is well-known that formaldehyde can be dangerous.
According to the Department of Health, it can cause cancer, and the Environmental Protection Agency says that prolonged exposure to formaldehyde can contribute to causing skin allergies. Now, what's the connection between formaldehyde and quaternium-15? The preservative actually releases formaldehyde, to kill bacteria.
Johnson & Johnson is not doing anything unlawful by using the preservative, and has even announced that it has been working on eliminating formaldehyde releasing substances from their baby products since 2009. Johnson & Johnson released a statement saying: "We know that some consumers are concerned about formaldehyde, which is why we offer many products without formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and are phasing out these types of preservatives in our baby products worldwide."
But the safe cosmetics campaigners don't think it's enough, even if formaldehyde is used in many products including infant vaccines (More about this in Would you reject vaccines for your children?). Lisa Archer from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund explained: "Clearly there is no need for Johnson & Johnson to expose babies to a known carcinogen when the company is already making safer alternatives."
Whether you boycott all Johnson & Johnson products until they quit using quaternium-15 is up to you, obviously. They produce many items that can be deemed to be on the list of essential baby items. But I personally think steering clear of the baby shampoo until the dubious element is removed makes sense.