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Materials for Seniors

Johnson & Johnson leads way in removing harmful chemicals from daily products

Recently, I wrote a column in what I hope was a humorous tone, criticizing the trillion-dollar cosmetics industry. Since then, a news item came to my attention in regard to the use of some ingredients in beauty and household products that could potentially be dangerous.

This column, therefore, is completely of a serious nature. The news item was an announcement by Johnson & Johnson, makers of a wide range of personal and baby products, to remove many potentially harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde, from its line of consumer products by the end of 2015, becoming the first major consumer products company to make such a widespread commitment.

This unusual step is a result of a very lively public discussion going on about the safety of ingredients in personal care products. On average, women use 12 products containing 168 ingredients every day, men use six products with 85 ingredients, and children are exposed to products with 61 ingredients, daily.

What??? You thought the government was checking on the safety of these products? Unfortunately, cosmetics are unregulated and are often made from poorly tested chemicals. The Food and Drug Administration can’t require safety tests or even recall harmful products, and manufacturers are not required to report cosmetics-related injuries to the agency.

In my opinion, this needs to change!

According to the Environmental Working Group website, more than 500 products sold in the United States contain ingredients banned in cosmetics in Japan, Canada or Europe.

I was also disturbed to learn that “dermatologist tested,” “gentle and natural” and even “organic” can just be advertising hype. “Fragrance” is a term that cosmetics, cleaning and candle industries use on an ingredients list that discloses only that there are unnamed chemicals in the product.

We are not just talking about cosmetics, but about shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, sunscreen, body lotion and shaving products and room sprays.

Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, said her group would continue to press other cosmetics and consumer-goods companies to follow Johnson & Johnson’s lead, including Estee Lauder Companies, Proctor & Gamble, Avon and L’Oreal.

Estee Lauder stated that it adheres to stringent safety standards for all of its products, and P&G said the company communicates openly with consumers about the ingredients it uses.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s admirable decision requires the company to walk a tightrope, showing itself willing to make extensive changes while still reassuring consumers that its existing products are safe. The company calls its new policy, “moving beyond safety.”

Meanwhile, for an exhaustive list of products and their content, you can go to ewg.org/skindeep, or keep the following information from their “Quick Tips for Safer Cosmetics”.

-Your Teeth: No triclosan in toothpaste.

-Your Lips: No retinyl palmitate.

-Your Hair: No fragrance, PEG, ceteareth and polyethylene. No parabens: propyl isopropyl, butyl, isobutyl. No DMDM hydantoin.

-Your Nails: No formaldehyde or formalin in polish or other nail products. No toluene, dibutyl phthalate, a.k.a. DBP.

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” — Yves Saint Laurent

Contact Jean Cherni, certified senior adviser for Senior Living Solutions and Pearce Plus, a helpful, full-service program for seniors contemplating a move, at jeancherni@sbcglobal.net or 15 The Ponds at 101 Hotchkiss Grove, Branford 06405.

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