Chemical hair relaxer products are widely used across the United States and are primarily marketed to African American women. Now, these products are involved in multi-district litigation for the toxic chemicals they contain.
Chemical hair relaxers, or chemical hair straighteners, are products people use to alter the appearance of their hair. A person may use the product at home or in a salon, and it's often applied to the roots, where it sits for a certain amount of time for it to take effect. Because the product sits on the scalp for an extended period, it may give the ingredients in the product more time to absorb into the skin and affect the body. Recent studies have shown a possible link between relaxers and cancers. The companies that produce these products may have known about the potential health risks for years, but have failed to tell customers about the problems.
If you're experiencing health problems and have used a chemical hair relaxer, you may be entitled to financial compensation through legal action. Whether or not you qualify for this depends on your specific circumstances, and our professionals can help you learn more about your options. No matter what you're experiencing, you don't have to go through it alone, and we can help you through every step of the process. Here's what you need to know about chemical hair relaxers, their potential negative side effects, and current hair relaxer lawsuits.
Is there a chemical hair relaxer lawsuit?
Yes, there are currently several chemical hair relaxer lawsuits throughout the country. A major study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences came to publication in October 2022, which provides the basis for chemical hair relaxer lawsuits. There are lawsuits against many hair and beauty brands, including L'Oreal, a major producer of hair dyes and relaxers.
With the increasing amount of scientific evidence showing links between these beauty products and cancer, plaintiffs all over the country have been filing cases against the brands. In mid-November 2022, a group of plaintiffs decided to file a motion that would transfer many cases to a single Court, which can then help make the process of claiming for compensation simpler. In addition, this allows the Court to be more efficient by providing similar outcomes and decisions for individuals affected by the chemical hair relaxers.
These lawsuits claim that the harmful chemicals in hair relaxers, including phthalates, can influence uterine cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Phthalates are chemicals that manufacturers use to dissolve materials and make plastics more durable. Many products use phthalates, some of these being flooring, oils, hair sprays, soaps, and shampoos.
Phthalates are harmful because they can have long-lasting effects on the reproductive system. They can disrupt the endocrine system, which is responsible for creating and maintaining hormone levels within the human body. When hormone levels aren't balanced, it can lead to problems in reproductive health. There may be evidence that companies have already been aware of the effects of these harmful chemicals inÂ as early asÂ 2015, and hair and beauty firms may haveÂ failed to communicate this information with their customers.
At this time, there are at least 100 individual chemical hair relaxer lawsuits filed with the federal Court system, and it may be likely that many more claims will follow. Although there isn't currently an existing official multidistrict litigation (MDL) lawsuit, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) plans to hear arguments and decide in January 2023 whether or not to consulate the cases.
Chemical hair relaxers linked to the cancer
There are many studies over the course of the last ten years that have linked the chemicals in hair relaxers to many types of cancer, including uterine and breast cancer. These are some of the studies that show a relationship between these beauty products and cancer:
National Institutes of Health
The Sister Study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) studied women living in the United States between the ages of 35 and 74. The NIEHS is an organization that strives to better understand how the environment affects human health, and this study followed more than 30,000 in its course. It was discovered that women who used chemical hair relaxers were more likely to develop cancer than those who didn't.
The NIEHS is part of the larger National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH is an organization that has 27 separate institutes within it. It's an important component of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and conducts medical, clinical, and basic research about rare and common diseases.
During the study, researchers followed women for 11 years, reviewing their health and lifestyles. Over the course of the study, there were 378 cases of uterine cancer diagnosed among the women. Those who used chemical hair relaxers at least three or four times per year were as much as twice as likely to develop cancer when compared to those who didn't use the products at all.
Women who never used hair relaxers had a 1.64% chance of developing uterine cancer by age 70. Frequent users of the chemical hair products had a 4.05% chance of developing the same cancer by age 70. While uterine cancer is the most common type of cancer for the female reproductive system, it only makes up 3% of new cancer cases in the United States.
In 2022 alone there were 65,950 new cases of uterine cancer diagnosed. Some studies show that the rates of uterine cancer in the U.S. have been on the rise, particularly when you focus on the population of Black women. This study did not show a correlation between race and relaxer use in causing cancer.
This means that non-Black women may be just as likely to develop cancer if they use these products at least four times a year.Â Not only do Black women use these products more than other women, but they also begin using them at a younger age. To note,Â 60% of the women in the study who reported using the relaxers self-identified as Black.
This study did not focus on specific brands and the chemicals found in each one, but rather provided general information about the chemicals you may find in different hair relaxers. Some troubling ingredients include parabens, bisphenol A, formaldehyde, and certain metals.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute
An article from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute offers more information about the relationship between cancers and hair products. This article outlined how previous studies have shown correlations between breast cancer and ovarian cancer with hair products, but the strong relationship between hair relaxers and uterine cancer is a new finding. In addition, it focused on the same Sister Study participants: a diverse group of women between the ages of 35 and 74. Hormonal imbalance and exposure to chemicals that affect the endocrine system may contribute to the development of many cancers, including uterine cancer.
50% of the women in the study reported using permanent hair dyes, and this study shows that women who used the dyes at a young age may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer later in life. Though these dyes may have a correlation with other types of cancer, this study didn'tÂ show a correlation between hair dye and uterine cancer. Women who participated in the study but worked in a beauty salon or other similar environments that may expose them to chemicals were excluded from the final analysis.
Carcinogenesis Black Women's Health Study
TheÂ Black Women's Health Study from Carcinogenesis: Integrative Cancer Research shows that although breast cancer risk is shared among white and Black women, Black women are often disproportionally affected by the more aggressive types of cancer. This study followed 50,543 women from 1997 to 2017 and focused on how the chemicals in products can disrupt the body's ability to create, process, and use estrogen. The study found that women who used relaxers with lye had a 1.32 hazard ratio associated with estrogen receptors and the development of breast cancer.
Projected chemical hair relaxer settlement amounts
Because the lawsuits are in the early stages, it's difficult to predict how much those affected by chemical hair relaxers may receive in a settlement. The lawsuit is yet to become consolidated, and as the case progresses, there may be more information about potential settlement amounts and total damages. One woman is suing for $75,000 plus all medical fees.
The total amount that a plaintiff receives at the conclusion of a hair relaxant case can depend on many factors, so it's not guaranteed that you will receive any certain amount. Financial compensation after a Court case is meant to relieve some of the negative effects of the company's negligence, although it certainly cannot repair many of the results. As a patient with cancer, endometriosis, or other reproductive conditions, you may experience many negative effects outside of financial distress. Compensation for hair relaxer cases can cover the following:
- Medical costs
- Emotional distress
- Loss of income
- Loss of a loved one
Do you qualify for a chemical hair relaxer lawsuit?
If you have regularly used a hair relaxer and have developed a related condition, you may be qualified to sue the companies that create those hair products. To qualify, you may need to have used a relaxer at least four to seven times a year for a prolonged period of time. Some hair relaxers with harmful chemicals may include Dark and Lovely, Soft and Beautiful Texturizer or Relaxer, Mizani Scalp Relaxer, Optimum Care Relaxer, ORS Olive Oil (Organic Root Stimulator), SoftSheen, Creme of Nature, Precise Relaxer, Fabu-Laxer, Namaste Hair Relaxer, African, Pride Relaxer, Africa's Best Relaxer, Hawaiian Silky, Just for Me Hair Relaxer, Cantu Shea Butter Relaxer, Motions Hair Relaxer, Luster's Pretty N Silky (PCJ), Revlon Conditioning Creme Relaxer, and TCB Naturals Relaxer Creme.
You may also need to prove that you have no pre-existing condition, or that there is no history of cancer in your family. Because hair relaxers can disrupt the reproductive system, there are many other conditions that can develop from using them. These are some conditions that may be related to chemical hair relaxers:
Uterine cancer is a condition of the female reproductive system which occurs when malignant cells form within the uterus. In 2022, there were an estimated 65,950 new cases of uterine cancer, making up a total of 3.4% of all new cancer cases. In 2022, 12,550 individuals passed away from uterine cancer, making up a total of 2.1% of all cancer deaths. The five-year survival rate for uterine cancer is 81.3% (based on data from 2012 to 2018).
In a study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), researchers found that some subtypes of uterine cancer are becoming more common. This study shows that aggressive types of uterine cancer rose for women between 30 and 79 years of age from 2000 to 2015. This study also sheds light on racial differences in uterine cancer, revealing a lower survival rate for non-Hispanic Black women than women from other groups.
If you think you're experiencing any of the symptoms of uterine cancer, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Those who have been diagnosed with uterine cancer and use hair relaxers may be qualified for compensation through lawsuits. These are some common symptoms of uterine cancer:
- Change in vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Bleeding between periods or after menopause
- Pain in the lower abdomen and in the pelvis
- White or clear vaginal discharge after menopause
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is a condition in which malignant cells form within the glands, ducts, and fatty tissue of the breasts. The specific part of the breast in which cancer starts determines which subtype the breast cancer is. Breast cancer becomes more dangerous as the disease spreads to other parts of the body, like in the lymph system or throughout the bloodstream.
If you think you're experiencing any of the symptoms of breast cancer, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and use hair relaxers or other hair products may be qualified for compensation through lawsuits. These are some common symptoms of breast cancer:
- Skin dimpling in the breast area.
- Pain in the breast or nipple.
- Red, dry, or flaking skin around the nipple.
- Nipple discharge that is not breast milk.
- Swelling of the lymph nodes or breast.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that's supposed to grow only inside your uterus appears in other parts of your body. When this condition is present, the tissue can grow on fallopian tubes, pelvis tissue, and ovaries, causing painful periods and excessive bleeding. The tissue can harden and create fibroids, which then cause other complications.
If you think you're experiencing any of the symptoms of endometriosis, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Those who have been diagnosed with endometriosis and use hair relaxers or other hair products may be qualified for compensation through lawsuits. These are some common symptoms of endometriosis:
- Pain during sexual intercourse, bowel movements, or urination.
- Excessive bleeding and pain during periods.
- Infertility or difficulty conceiving.
- Constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, exhaustion, and bloating during periods.