Hair Relaxer Uterine Cancer Risks Linked to Endocrine Disruptors and Phthalate Exposure

Women pursuing hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuits point to DEHP, a phthalate some studies have linked to abnormal uterine and endometrial cell development.

  • Hair relaxers have been promoted for decades and safe and effective
  • Chemicals in hair relaxers have been linked to an increased risk of uterine cancer, fibroids and other injuries
  • Growing number of hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuits allege that manufacturers knew or should have known about the side effects linked to phthalates and endocrine disruptors

A rapidly growing number of hair relaxer lawsuits are being filed by women throughout the U.S. who were diagnosed with uterine cancer and other injuries, each raising similar allegations that manufacturers knew or should have known that long-term users would face an increased cancer risk from specific chemicals in hair relaxer, including phthalates and other endocrine disruptors.

Although hair relaxer products like “Dark & Lovely”, “Optimum”, “Just for Me” and other brands have been marketed for years as safe and effective, studies published in recent years have uncovered an alarming connection between hair relaxer and cancer risks.


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The litigation emerged after researchers published landmark new findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in October 2022, which warned that ingredients used in the chemical hair relaxers may cause uterine cancer.

Researchers found that the rate of uterine cancer was nearly three times greater among women who frequently used hair relaxer chemicals, compared to women who never used the products.

Years earlier, another study published in the International Journal of Cancer (IJC) issued similar findings in 2019, indicating women who reported regularly using straighteners and permanent hair dyes were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer than non-users.

Over an eight year period, researchers identified 2,794 cases of breast cancer after chemical hair straighteners use. The study revealed those who frequently used hair straightener products were at a significantly increased risk of breast cancer, finding women using hair straighteners at least every five to eight weeks, had a 30% increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers warned that African American women who reported using permanent hair dyes regularly were associated with a 60% increase of breast cancer diagnosis, compared to an 8% increased risk for Caucasian women.

Phthalates Blamed in Hair Relaxer Uterine Cancer Lawsuits

All of the lawsuits filed to date point to the use of a class of chemicals known as phthalates, as one of the main problems with hair straightener product ingredients.

Phthalates include a group of chemicals used to help make plastic flexible or more durable. They are commonly used as part of the packaging, preparation, storage and processing of food products, but are also found in a wide range of other items, including toys, cosmetics, detergents, PVC tubing, medical devices, and pill coatings.

The chemicals are known to be endocrine disruptors, which disrupt hormones and affect human health. Phthalate side effects have been linked to reproductive problems, increasing a woman’s chance of fibroids and endometriosis and miscarriage. Studies have also linked the chemicals to lower IQ in children if exposed during pregnancy, as well as reduced male fertility.

The lawsuits indicate the hair relaxers have a phthalate known as Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP), which is the most commonly used phthalate derivative in the U.S. since it was first used in 1949. DEHP is considered toxic because it breaks down into different metabolites, which can cause significant adverse health effects. These include endometriosis, infertility, cancer, developmental abnormalities, and metabolic syndrome, according to various studies in recent years.

One study published in 2018 in Reproductive Toxicology tested DEHP on adult mice, and saw an increase in the number of uterine glands, proliferation of endometrial stromal cells and other impacts on their reproductive system.

“Results suggest that, exposure to specific doses of DEHP for 30 days can have adverse effects on reproductive function,” the researchers concluded.

December 2022 Hair Relaxer Uterine Cancer Lawsuit Update

In response to similar allegations raised in hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, a motion was filed last month to consolidate and centralize the litigation before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Each of the hair relaxer lawsuits against L’Oreal, Namaste Laboratories, LLC, Strength of Nature Global, LLC and other companies claim the manufacturers knew or should have known that their products used chemicals that made them unreasonably dangerous. However, they used the chemicals anyway in order to maximize profits.

The lawsuits also accuses the manufacturers of intentionally targeting African-American women by suggesting their natural hair was a deficiency and unattractive, viewing them as a marginalized group with little political power that could be exploited.

In December 2022, the manufacturers are expected to respond to a motion filed by a group of plaintiffs to establish a hair relaxer MDL in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where the claims would be centralized for discovery and a series of early bellwether trials to gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is expected to consider oral arguments on the motion during an upcoming hearing set for January 26, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

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