Hair Relaxer Cancer Lawsuit Filed Over Chemicals in “Dark & Lovely,” “Motions” and “Organic Root Stimulator” Products

Lawsuit alleges chemicals in popular hair relaxers caused uterine cancer to develop, pointing to studies that link harmful chemicals in the products to serious health risks for women

  • Hair relaxers products have been marketed as safe for women for decades
  • New studies have identified serious side effects and cancer risks from hair relaxer chemicals
  • The first hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuit has been filed in an Illinois District Court
  • Thousands of hair relaxer side effects lawsuits are expected to be filed in the coming years
  • LEARN MORE ABOUT HAIR RELAXER LAWSUITS

Days after the publication of a landmark study highlighting a link between hair relaxers and cancer, the first of what is expected to be many lawsuits has been filed against L’Oréal and other companies over the marketing of their products to African American women without adequately disclosing the potential health risks.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Jennifer Mitchell in the U.S. District Court for The Northern District of Illinois on October 21, alleging that years of exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals in hair relaxers caused her to develop uterine cancer at the age of 28, resulting in the need for a full hysterectomy.

Link Between Hair Relaxers and Cancer

Chemical hair relaxers are popular among African American women, to style hair into a straight configuration by using extremely high heat and chemicals to break down disulphide bonds, which are the permanent hair bonds responsible for an individual’s natural hair type.

However, the products often use a variety of hazardous chemicals, including formaldehyde, Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) and phthalates; all of which are known for their individual abilities to either cause cancer, disrupt normal hormone function and cause reproductive and developmental problems, among other side effects.

Earlier this month, a study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, warning that ingredients used in the chemical hair straighteners 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.

While manufacturers are not required to obtain FDA approval for hair relaxers before they are marketed to consumers, Mitchell points out in her lawsuit that it is against the law to put an ingredient in cosmetics that makes them harmful when used as intended. The manufacturers also have a legal responsibility and duty to ensure that their products are safe, according to the hair relaxer lawsuit filed by Mitchell.

Lawsuit Alleges Uterine Cancer Was Direct Result of Exposure to Phthalates and Other Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Hair Relaxers

Mitchell indicates that she began using hair relaxing products when she was about 10 years old, and regularly applied the chemicals to her scalp through at least March 2022, using products such as Dark & Lovely, Motions and Organic Root Stimulator (ORS) Olive Oil Relaxer.

Although she followed the hair relaxer instructions as indicated, leaving the chemicals in for the required amount of time, Mitchell indicates she was unaware she was exposing herself to cancerous and hormone disrupting chemicals, which were not listed nor warned of on the packaging or labels.

As a direct side effect of the hair relaxers, Mitchell indicates she was diagnosed with uterine cancer on August 10, 2019, and had to undergo a hysterectomy about a month later. She then underwent mandatory appointments every three months until 2020, and has since required check ups at least every six months.

Mitchell indicates she has no family history of cancer or uterine cancer, and has now been deprived of her ability to have children, and is left with extreme pain, suffering and emotional distress.

“Defendants’ products failed to contain, and continue to this day not to contain, adequate warnings and/or instructions regarding the increased risk of cancer, including, but not limited to, breast cancer, with the use of their products by women,” Mitchell’s lawsuit states. “Defendants continue to market, advertise, and expressly represent to the general public that it is safe for women to use their product. These Defendants continue with these marketing and advertising campaigns despite having scientific knowledge that dates back to 2011 that their products increased the risk of breast cancer in women.”

Mitchell’s lawsuit brings forth claims of negligence, failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligent failure to recall, among other claims.

She seeks to recover damages in excess of $75,000 pain, suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, medical expenses, out of pocket expenses, lost earnings, and other economic damages economic and non-economic damages to be determined at trial. Mitchell’s lawsuit also seeks punitive damages against the manufacturers for their alleged wanton, willful, fraudulent and reckless acts that endanger the public for profit.

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Studies Linking Hair Straightener Chemicals to Uterine Cancer

In recent years multiple studies have been published highlighting hair relaxer uterine cancer side effects.

Earlier this month, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study that warned ingredients used in hair straighteners may cause uterine cancer, as they often contain hazardous chemicals with endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic properties.

Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health reviewed 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.

According to the results, researchers identified 378 uterine cancer cases, finding participants who used hair straightening products at least once had the highest rate of uterine cancer diagnosis compared to any other hair products involved in the study. They also had a higher rate of uterine cancer when compared to women who used no hair straightener products.

Studies Linking Hair Straightener Chemicals to Breast Cancer

A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Cancer (IJC) issued similar findings, 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.

11 Comments

  • NettieNovember 10, 2022 at 9:56 pm

    I have used all of these products and had a hysterectomy at the age of 38.

  • TomikoNovember 9, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    I had a hysterectomy at the age of 39.

  • ElizabethNovember 9, 2022 at 11:24 am

    I have used this product for years and never knew this would cause breast cancer my hair thinned out from using this product and it also burned my scalp My beautician used it on my hair and my kids as well.

  • ElaniaNovember 8, 2022 at 1:30 pm

    I used all of these products and was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2022

  • TyneishaNovember 5, 2022 at 11:14 pm

    I been using the relaxer that was couple months ago

  • CommencitaNovember 5, 2022 at 10:35 pm

    I used Dark and Lovely and Olive Oil Perms.

  • PamelaNovember 2, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    My mom used at home perms on me at an early age. I was put on low estrogen birth control in the 9th grade to help with the cramps, heavy bleeding and long periods. I was diagnosed with endometriosis then eventually fibroids and precancerous cells. Sex was painful. I decided to have a hysterectomy in 2010.

  • NicholeNovember 1, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve been using those products, especially dark and lovely for years. I just perm my hair with that just now.

  • GeraldineOctober 28, 2022 at 5:53 pm

    I use both relaxer and dye and was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2016

  • DeliaOctober 28, 2022 at 4:57 pm

    I used Olive Oil Normal Relaxer and, Dark and Lovely hair relaxer for over 30 years. I had uterine cancer I had a hysterectomy

  • AmandaOctober 28, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Have used all the name of products for years.

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