February 5th, 2008


By Iris Grossman, Communications Director, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies

A lot has been said in the blogosphere and elsewhere about a recent study on the presence of phthalates in consumer products, and talking to Marc and Bill, I asked if I could be a guest on JNJBTW to share what the Johnson & Johnson company I work for knows about phthalates. So here goes…

Phthalates are a large family of compounds used in a wide variety of everyday products. However, the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies use only one of the many phthalates — diethylphthalate (DEP) – in some of their personal care products as a component of fragrances used in some products.

DEP has been extensively researched and is not linked to reproductive toxicity or endocrine disruption. For instance, both the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel, an independent, nonprofit panel of scientists and physicians who assess the safety of personal care product ingredients in the U.S., and the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP), the body that advises the European Union Commission on safety matters related to cosmetics, have determined DEP to be safe as used.

After reviewing the study that was recently published in the Journal Pediatrics, the medical experts at the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies also had some concerns about its design. The study references the presence of seven phthalate compounds, yet only DEP is used in any baby care products. This suggests that most of the phthalates found in the urine samples came from another route of exposure. The Personal Care Products Council also had similar concerns, which they highlighted in a statement yesterday:

Unfortunately, the researchers of this study did not test baby care products for the presence of phthalates or control for other possible routes of exposure. A 2006 study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that with the exception of DEP, no other phthalates were present in the baby product tested. For this reason, we question the validity of the alleged link between the use of baby personal care products and the presence of phthalates in infants.

7 Responses to “Phthalates”

  1. Jennifer says

    Aren’t diethylphthalates prohibited for sale in baby products in Europe, and also San Francisco? Why are phthalates so commercially favored here in the US – are there no substitutes? And finally, does Johnson & Johnson support the precautionary principle?

  2. Iris Grossman says

    Thank you for your comment. Please note that DEP is the only phthalate used in our personal care products, and DEP is NOT prohibited for use in Europe or San Francisco. DEP has been deemed to be safe as used. The confusion may stem from affected phthalates with similar names, such as DEHP.

    For all our products, we comply with the regulations in the countries/locations in which they are sold.

    The European Union requires that cosmetic products “must not cause damage to human health when applied under normal or reasonably forseeable conditions of use.” The overall objective of the laws regulating cosmetics on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean is to ensure consumer safety. While certain aspects of the cosmetic regulations are different, the fundamentals are the same: Cosmetic products must be safe for their intended use.

  3. Kate Pinkerton says

    Are phthalates used in all US J&J baby products? If not, can you provide clarity on those that do or do not (whichever is the smaller list)?

  4. Iris Grossman says

    Thanks for your comment. DEP is used in some of our products as a component of fragrance, but if you have a specific question about a particular product, it is best to contact our consumer contact center at 1-866-JNJ-BABY. Again, as I mentioned in my post, all our products are considered safe as used.

  5. P. Bishop says

    Although several phthalates are banned under the EU cosmetics directive, DEP is not among these. To the contrary, DEP has a positive opinion from the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP). http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_sccp/docs/sccp_o_106.pdf

    However, the SCCP does point out the hazards of phthalates used in plastic packaging that may ‘leach’ into the products. Do the J&J packaging standards avoid the use of banned phthalates?

  6. Iris Grossman says

    I work for Johnson & Johnson’s Consumer businesses, and speaking for that business segment, I can tell you that the packaging for our consumer products is phthalate-free.

  7. Angela Duso says

    Why do you include DEP in your products? To my eye, DEP is structurally similar to banned phthalates like DEHP. If you can reformulate your products to remove the ones that have been banned, then why can’t you remove phthalate entirely? I will not use J and J products until I see a full ingredient list (not the catch-all term “fragrance”) on the packaging, and until I know that they do not contain phthalates. I know several mothers who feel the same way. We would rather pay more money for phthalate-free products than use Jand J products that contain any phthalate. You might want to note that S.C Johnson has promised to remove ALL phthalates from its products by 2012, and to voluntarily disclose all product ingredients.

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