Lawsuits have been filed against L’Oreal USA Inc and other makers of hair straightener products after an October study released by the U.S. government linked the use of their products to uterine cancer.
According to Reuters, the multiple suits claim products from major beauty companies caused cancer or other health problems. Victims are seeking damages to compensate for pain and suffering and economic damages for medical bills and the cost of the products, among other things.
One of the suits was filed by Jennifer Mitchell, a Black woman from Waynesville, Missouri. Mitchell claims she began using hair straighteners when she was 10 years old and continued the practice for 20 years. According to her suit, which was filed on Oct. 21 in Chicago federal court, at the age of 28 Mitchell was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
An attorney for one of the suits puts the blame solely on the big companies who make the products stating they intend to market these products directly to communities of color.
“This is a lifestyle product, where moms are putting this in their babies’ hair,” Debrosse Zimmermann told Reuters.
Although representatives for L’Oreal USA have not responded to any comments to the media officially, after the first lawsuits were filed, the company did post a statement online saying they were, “confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit.”
In the study, which was released on Oct. 17, 2022, researchers found that women who reported frequent use of hair straightening products, defined as more than four times in the previous year, were more than twice as likely to go on to develop uterine cancer compared to those who did not use the products.
“We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” said Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author on the new study. “This doubling rate is concerning. However, it is important to put this information into context – uterine cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer.”
Although rare, other studies have found that rates of uterine cancer have been rising in the United States, particularly among Black women.
Let’s start to be more mindful of the type of products we are not only using on our heads but also passing down to the next generation of scalps.