18 Nov 2011

Company to remove potential carcinogen from products

7:36 am on 18 November 2011

A multi-national pharmaceuticals company will remove a chemical the United States Government considers a possible trigger for cancers and skin allergies from hundreds of its baby products.

Johnson & Johnson says all formaldehyde-releasing preservatives will be gone from the products within two years after a sustained campaign by an American consumer group.

The products include its flagship baby shampoo.

However, the company says neither it nor regulators have any health concerns and the amount of formaldehyde in an entire bottle of baby shampoo is the same as that naturally occuring in an apple.

Johnson & Johnson will not say whether any complaints have been laid by New Zealand customers.

Dermatologist Amanda Oakely, a clinical associate professor at Waikato University, says the chemical can cause the skin of some people to become swollen and blistered.

Dr Oakley says people who are allergic can react to a small amount.

"The reaction can be very mild and persistent or it can be sudden and violent," she says.

Dr Oakley says if the skin is in continued contact with the chemical it can become red, blistered and intensely itchy.

She says allergies to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are probably among the ten most common allergies.