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China tests J&J baby shampoo for unsafe chemicals

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[March 19, 2009]  SHANGHAI (AP) -- Shanghai's food and drug safety agency says it is testing Johnson & Johnson baby products following allegations they contain potential carcinogens.

An official at the Shanghai Food & Drug Safety Administration confirmed the agency was conducting tests but said he could not comment further because no results were available yet. Like many media-shy Chinese officials, he refused to give his name.

HardwareJohnson & Johnson baby shampoo and other products were among dozens listed in a report issued March 12 by the U.S-based health and environmental activist group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics as containing formaldehyde and/or 1,4-dioxane.

Johnson & Johnson issued a statement reassuring customers and accusing the report of unnecessarily alarming parents.

"The trace levels of certain compounds found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make our products gentle for babies and safe from bacterial growth," the statement said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration "and other government agencies around the world consider these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements in every country where they are sold," it said.

The allegations nonetheless struck a nerve in China, where a slew of product safety and quality scandals has left consumers jittery over potential risks.

A Shanghai-based supermarket chain, Nong Gong Shang, pulled Johnson Baby Shampoo from its shelves earlier this week in reaction to the report. However, other retailers appeared not to have taken any action so far.

According to the U.S. FDA, 1,4-dioxane can form as a byproduct during manufacturing of some cosmetics. The compound, a suspected carcinogen, is used as a solvent for paints, varnishes, cleaning and detergent preparations and as a solvent stabilizer and corrosion inhibitor.

In a statement on its Web site, the FDA says the levels of the chemical that it has found in cosmetics it has monitored do not present a hazard to consumers.

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Formaldehyde, a preservative commonly found in construction materials and that can cause breathing problems, is classified as a carcinogen.

Johnson & Johnson makes everything from contraceptives and contact lenses to baby products and genetically engineered drugs. Its products were among 48 from different manufacturers that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says it tested for 1,4-dioxane, 32 of which were found to contain the chemical.

The group also tested 28 products for formaldehyde, a chemical preservative and embalming fluid which is still allowed in small amounts by the United States and the World Health Organization. It said 23 products tested positive for formaldehyde and that 17 tested were found to contain both chemicals.

The Washington-based Personal Care Products Council, an industry group, issued a statement saying the group's report, entitled "No More Toxic Tub," was a "patently false and a shameful and cynical attempt by an activist group to incite and prey upon parental worries."

[Associated Press; By ELAINE KURTENBACH]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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