2017 Health for Humanity Report
Environmental Health
Environmental Health
Environmental Health
Environmental Health

Pharmaceuticals & Personal Care Products in the Environment

We recognize the concerns raised by stakeholders regarding the presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment, and work to advance society’s understanding of how these products impact the environment so that we can protect environmental and human health.

Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

The major source of pharmaceuticals entering the environment is via patient excretion following use of medicine. A comparatively smaller contribution stems from emissions resulting from the manufacturing process and from improper disposal of medications. The major source of personal care products entering the environment is via use of products and rinsing from the body during bathing activities.

The Johnson & Johnson statement on the Impact of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment lays out our approach to assessing and managing our impacts, while engaging and partnering with others to share best practices and help advance responsible science-based policy. Our approach is based on a wide range of activities:

  • Conducting environmental risk assessments of all active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in our products prior to market approval to determine potential environmental concentration and risks;
  • Monitoring our manufacturing wastewaters for potential toxicity to aquatic species, and controlling our discharges according to local regulations;
  • Employing sourcing practices that help ensure that our chemical and API suppliers comply with our expectations for environmental and social practices;
  • Proactive partnering with stakeholders across the healthcare sector;
  • Advancing the science on this issue through company-directed research and public-private research consortiums.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Pharmaceuticals entering the environment are a contributing factor in the rapid growth of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the resistance of pathogens to previously effective drugs. As one of the original signatories of the Davos Declaration, in 2016 Johnson & Johnson joined the industry-wide call to curb development of AMR, also endorsing the Roadmap on Progress for Combating AMR in the same year. We are working on multiple fronts to fulfill our AMR Roadmap commitments, including those related to environmental impact from production of antibiotics. Through innovation, research and collaboration, in 2017 we made steady progress on our four key environmental commitments, notably:

  • Reviewed our own manufacturing and supply chains to assess good practice in controlling releases of antibiotics into the environment.
  • Established a common framework for managing antibiotic discharge, building on existing work such as the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative to start to apply it across our own manufacturing and supply chain by 2018.
  • Engaged in partnerships with stakeholders to develop tools to transparently demonstrate that our supply chains meet the standards set forth in the AMR Alliance Roadmap framework.
  • Initiated work with independent technical experts to establish science-driven, risk-based targets for discharge concentrations for antibiotics and good practice methods to reduce environmental impact of manufacturing discharges by 2020.

Our work on pharmaceuticals in the environment and AMR also included a research partnership, starting in May 2017, with Temple University’s Water and Environmental Technology Center, whose objective is to optimize sampling methodology and investigate treatment effects on antimicrobial resistance genes. Project deliverables will be used to evaluate our internal and external manufacturing operations to fulfill our AMR Roadmap commitments; the tools may also be made available to the public to help evaluate local conditions.

For more information on progress with our commitments against AMR, visit Pandemic Preparedness and AMR Policy Statement.

Personal Care Products in the Environment

We take our responsibility to protect the environment seriously as it is embedded in Our Credo. That’s why we’ve made a commitment to remove the plastic sticks from our cotton buds and replace them with 100% paper sticks. Our new paper stick cotton bud was launched in the UK in 2017 and is being rolled out across Europe. Japan already has paper sticks on the market and we are assessing the timing for deployment in other parts of the world.

Johnson & Johnson was one of the first companies to commit to voluntarily remove microbeads from our products worldwide. Microbeads are tiny plastic balls used in face and body washes. In cosmetic and personal care products they act to gently scrub away dead skin in much the same way a sponge would, and can potentially enter waterways when washed off. We completed the last of the reformulations in 2017.

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