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Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuit Over Uterine Cancer Risk Filed Against L’Oreal, Other Manufacturers
An Arkansas woman has filed a uterine cancer lawsuit against chemical hair straightener manufacturers, accusing L’Oréal and other companies of using racial tactics to place social pressure on women of color to use their toxic products, while failing to disclose risks they may face.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Karen Moore in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on July 12, indicating that L’Oréal, its Soft Sheen-Carson subsidiary, and Sally Beauty Holdings, Inc. have failed to disclose the side effects that may result from the regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals in hair straighteners, including Dark & Lovely, Optimum, Precise and others.
“Today, Defendants market their hair relaxer products to Black customers across the United States, and the world, with advertising designed to emphasize Eurocentric standards of beauty,” according to the complaint, which points to actions by the manufacturers to promote straightening of hair by black women, without disclosing that it may increase the risk of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and other injuries.
Uterine Cancer Risk from Hair Straighteners
Moore joins hundreds of other women now pursuing a chemical hair straightener lawsuit against L’Oréal, Strength of Nature, Namaste and other manufacturers, each raising similar allegations that women have not been adequately warned about the link between chemical hair straighteners and cancer.
According to the lawsuit, Moore began using various chemical straightener products, including Silk Elements and Mizani Butter Blend, in about 1982. She would keep the hair relaxing chemicals on her scalp for the time allotted in the instructions, which is widely known to cause burns and lesions during the application process.
Although she was diagnosed in 2018, she continued to apply the products regularly until 2022, since she was unaware of the uterine cancer risk from straightening her hair.
“Once relaxer use begins in childhood, it usually becomes a lifetime habit. The frequency of scalp burns with relaxer application can increase the risk of scalp burns with relaxer application can increase the risk of permanent and debilitating diseases associated with long-term exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals,” Moore states in the complaint. “Use by Black women of hair straightening products aligns with the marketing and beauty standards promoted by Defendants.”
Moore points out that there was never any indication on the packaging or otherwise that this normal use could and would cause uterine cancer. However, the lawsuit points to a number of studies that have highlighted the serious health risks Black women face from chemical hair straigteners.
In October 2022, researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health published findings of a study that reviewded data on nearly 34,000 women in the United States between the ages of 35 and 74, who completed questionnaires on their use of multiple hair products, including hair dyes, straighteners, relaxers, or pressing products, and permanents or body waves. A 10 year follow-up on the incident rate of uterine cancer diagnosis was performed, and researchers reported that women who used hair relaxers at least four times per year faced a 156% increased risk of developing uterine cancer.
Moore’s lawsuit presents claims of negligence, manufacturing and design defect, inadequate warning, and non-conformity to express warranty. She seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
July 2023 Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuit Update
Moore’s complaint will be consolidated and centralized with hundreds of other Dark & Lovely lawsuits and other claims brought against the manufacturers of widely used chemical hair straighteners, which have been consolidated as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) before U.S. District Judge Mary M. Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the lawsuits, Judge Rowland is working with the parties to establish a schedule for coordinated discovery and determining when a series of early bellwether trials may be ready to begin.
As part of the coordinated management of the litigation, it is expected that Judge Rowland will establish a bellwether process, where small groups of representative injury claims will go through case-specific discovery and be prepared for early trial dates, to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
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