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More Black Women Filing Hair Relaxer Lawsuits

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Thousands of Black women have filed hair relaxer cancer lawsuits against several cosmetics companies, and attorneys expect thousands more as their ad campaigns increase awareness.

Santa Clara, CAAs attorneys ramp up advertising on television and social media, more Black women are becoming aware of the association between hair relaxers and uterine cancer, and that at least a dozen cosmetic companies sold their hair straighteners containing dangerous chemicals and failed to warn customers. Many women are just now learning that they have rubbed carcinogenic formaldehyde into their scalps for decades and thousands of hair relaxer lawsuits have been filed – and continue to be filed – by women of color against these companies, including L’Oreal and Revlon.

Law firms began their ad campaigns last October, shortly after a study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)  found an association between frequent use of chemical hair relaxers and uterine cancer. Some of their ads include highlights of the NIH study’s findings after they show Black women applying hair products. “Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them,” said Che-Jung Chang, Ph.D., an author on the NIH study. Coincidentally, a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, which NIH posted in 2019 , found that uterine cancer rose rapidly among women ages 30 to 79 from 2000 to 2015, especially among Black women. 

On the flip side, L’Oreal and Revlon told Reuters that their products are subject to rigorous safety reviews. The latter told Reuters that, “We do not believe the science supports a link between chemical hair straighteners or relaxers and cancer,” and L’Oreal said it is ‘committed to offering the best products ‘for all skin and hair types, all genders, all identities, all cultures, all ages’ and that its hair relaxers have a ‘rich heritage and history’ originating with Black inventors and entrepreneurs.” And a lawyer for the cosmetic company Namaste emailed Reuters that, “We do not believe the plaintiffs have shown, or will be able to show, that the use of Namaste hair relaxer products caused the injuries that they allege in their complaints.”

Hair Relaxer Lawsuits

Since the first hair relaxer lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jenny Mitchell, a Missouri woman, just days after the NIH study was made public, over 7,000 similar lawsuits have been consolidated in a Chicago federal court as part of a multidistrict litigation proceeding (MDL), which is a procedure that more efficiently manages lawsuits filed in multiple jurisdictions. A docket report (PDF) dated October 16, lists almost 6,000 complaints centralized in the federal hair relaxer MDL but attorneys predict that the number of cases filed will to continue to rise over the next few years, and tens of thousands of women may seek financial compensation.

Mitchell, age 28, was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent a hysterectomy, ending her dreams of having children. “I was devastated,” she told the Washington Post, and blames the hair products that she had been using since she was in grade school. Mitchell alleges that the chemical hair straighteners – from five companies including L’Oreal’ -- she had been applying to her scalp for decades caused her cancer, which she said does not run in her family.

As late as July 2023, there were only about 250 complaints pending in MDL – by October that number increased to almost 6,000 complaints centralized in the federal hair relaxer MDL. That exponential increase is likely due to the FDA announcing its possible ban on hair straighteners that contain or emit formaldehyde, which could lead to hair relaxer recalls for certain products. The FDA says that the “Use of hair smoothing products containing formaldehyde (FA) and other FA-releasing chemicals is linked to short-term adverse health effects, such as sensitization reactions and breathing problems, and long-term adverse health effects, including an increased risk of certain cancers.


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Hello! I have heard about women using Hair Relaxers and the mixers in the products has caused women to have Hysterectomy.
I have been using Hair relaxers since I was 15 years old.. I had a Partial Hysterectomy in the year of 1999..Back them, I as a Black woman working in Corp world (IBM) We were always trying keep our hair straight to look professional..So I would Straighten my hair every (2) months so there wouldn't be and
curly roots..That was and still is the America way for women of color.
I was in pain and bleeding alot that my gynecologist said, it was a must to have a Hysterectomy..So I did in 1999..So my questions are do I qualify for this Lawsuit?
Annette Moore Thanks.


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