Researchers have discovered that hair products used predominately by Black women are likely to contain hazardous chemicals with endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic properties.
Armed with that information and research by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, civil rights attorney Ben Crump joined forces with lawyer Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann to file a lawsuit against beauty products giant L’ Oréal USA.
Crump and Zimmermann filed the suit on behalf of Jenny Mitchell, a woman with no family history of cancer but who received a uterine cancer diagnosis after years of using L’ Oréal products.
The lawyers declared that the defendants also would include “entities that assisted in the development, marketing, and sale of the defective products including Motions, Dark & Lovely, Olive Oil Relaxer, and Organic Root Stimulator.”
“Black women have long been told they must use chemical hair straightening products to meet society’s standards,” Crump declared. “Companies took advantage of this and marketed their dangerous products to women without any regard for the serious health risks. We need justice.”
Crump said Mitchell started using the products around 2000 and continued until 2022. In August 2018, Mitchell – with no family history of uterine or other cancer – was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent a complete hysterectomy, Crump noted.
Mitchell attended mandatory medical appointments every three months for two years and has appointments scheduled every six months.
Crump cited a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week. The study concluded that frequent users of chemical hair straightening products, defined in the study as more than four uses a year, were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than those who didn’t use those products. The National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences conducted the study.
Uterine cancer rates and deaths are reportedly on the rise in the U.S. Death rates are highest among non-Hispanic Black women, who are more likely than other populations to be afflicted with aggressive subtypes of uterine cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health, which tracked data from 34,000 women in the Sister Study for more than a decade.
“Black women have long been the victims of dangerous products specifically marketed to them,” said Crump. “Black hair has been and always will be beautiful, but Black women have been told they have to use these products to meet society’s standards. Unfortunately, we will likely discover that Ms. Mitchell’s tragic case is one of the countless cases in which companies aggressively misled black women to increase their profits.”
Chemical hair straighteners typically contain products associated with higher cancer risk, including formaldehyde, metals, phthalates, and parabens, which may be more easily absorbed by the body through scalp burns and abrasions often caused by chemical straighteners, study authors determined.
Zimmermann added that companies like L’ Oréal “targeted Black and Latin women for their own profit motive and without regard to the serious health risks that these hair-straightening products cause is a serious wrong that needs to be corrected.”
“We have commenced this important litigation to seek and obtain justice for those women and their families.”