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Hair Straightener Relaxers Linked to Cancer in Black Women

Recent claims of hair straightener relaxer products and hair dyes causing cancer are coming to light in recent months. A recent news release shows that women are coming forward and telling their stories of their history using hair care products like chemical relaxers and the association between them and reproductive health issues. Women are stating that the frequent use of these harmful chemicals has resulted in fibroids, endometriosis, and an elevated risk for cancer. 

Some of the ingredients in these straightening products have been recently linked to increased health risks like cancer and are more prevalent in women of color. If you have regularly used chemical hair relaxers and your reproductive health was compromised, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a personal injury lawyer at Marks Law Group at 678-251-9309.

What Are Chemical Straighteners and Relaxers?

Chemical hair straighteners and relaxers are products that use chemicals to break bonds in the proteins in your hair. If you have curly or wavy hair and break enough of those bonds, your hair will be straight. It sounds simple enough however the chemicals in relaxers used in this process are very strong and it is recommended to use a hair professional to apply it. Many of these products when they were initially created and produced contained high amounts of toxic and harmful ingredients. These chemicals in hair care products are common however not at the amount found in hair relaxers.

The hair care industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Black women spend on average around half a billion dollars annually on hair care products and services and spend roughly 9 times more than the average consumer. These hair straightening chemicals are regularly used by black women as young as 4 years old.

Lye Chemical Straighteners

Early on, these hair products contained a chemical called lye. On the pH scale, lye is around 12-14 making it an extremely strong base. What does this have to do with your hair? Well, it is very effective in straightening your hair but may cause scalp irritation. Recently, lye is an ingredient linked to other health issues like the disruption of the endocrine system in women. 

Specific chemicals were not mentioned in the study conducted by the NIH. Lye, formaldehyde, metals, and parabens are all common chemicals found in straightening products for black hair. Basically, these are all carcinogens that if exposed to in high amounts, can lead to health problems and cancer. 

What Are the Increased Health Risks of Using Chemical Straighteners?

Lye is among many other chemicals used in hair straightening products. Some of the increased health risks they pose are a disruption in hormones in women which are also known as endocrine disruptors. These disruptions can lead to many other reproductive health issues. It's also unknown if disruptions in these hormones have an impact on other body systems like our vascular and circulatory systems including other types of cancer. These hair relaxers contain these types of endocrine disruptors also known as hormone-disrupting chemicals. 

Possible Effects of Hair Relaxers:

  • Tumors
  • Fibroids
  • Uterine cancer risk
  • Birth defects
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Endometriosis
  • Other types of hormone-sensitive development disorders
a model of cancer cells and text with adverse side effects of hair relaxers

If you have been affected by the use of chemical hair straightening products, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Marks Law Group at 678-251-9309.

The National Institute of Health conducted a massive study on 33,497 American women between the ages of 35 and 74. This National study found that study participants who used chemical hair straightening products frequently were two times more likely to develop uterine cancer than those who did not. In addition, previous studies have shown a relationship between permanent hair dyes and hair relaxers and an increase in breast and ovarian cancers. 

You can read more about the study here. Scientific experts are hard at work doing research to identify and prove the link between relaxers, cancer-causing chemicals, and the reproductive health issues many women are facing. 

Is the Risk of Cancer Due to Hair Straightening Chemicals Higher in Black Women?

The NIH study goes on to explain that there is an increase in the frequency of uterine cancer among women in the United States, especially in Black women compared to White women. In terms of societal norms, using chemical hair straighteners is more common among Black women due to "standards of beauty" and unfair pressure to have straight hair in the workplace. This makes the logical conclusion as to why there is an increased risk factor in that particular race and gender. 

Many black women start using black hair straightening products at a very young age. Usually, they start as young girls around the age of 8 but some as young as 4 have been using these types of products. Relaxers are something that once you start, is difficult to stop and are not something people can choose to use off and on. Many of the products recommend retouching at the roots as often as every 4-8 weeks making black women frequent users of these products. 

Black women lead the world in the removal of the uterus, also known as hysterectomies. 65% of these hysterectomies that are performed are due to fibroids. Fibroids have been one of the biggest side effects of using hair straighteners for black hair.

Are There Lawsuits Against Chemical Hair Straightener Manufacturers?

Yes, many women that have suffered uterine cancer and other reproductive health issues have come forward and sued companies that have produced many brands of hair relaxers. The largest company involved in a related lawsuit currently is L'Oreal however other companies involved are Revlon and Strength of Nature. Given the popularity and cultural norm of using relaxer chemicals, it is anticipated that there are many, many more women that have suffered reproductive health issues and possibly uterine cancer. 

What Are My Rights if I Have Reproductive Issues and Have Used Chemical Straighteners?

If you have exposure to hair products like those mentioned above, try and get as much documentation as you can. Write down any brand names or keep any leftover boxes of chemical straightening products that you have used in the past. Document how frequently you used these products. If you have any medical proof of reproductive health conditions or gynecologic cancers, save those as well. 

Our team of experienced attorneys at Marks Law Group is dedicated to helping individuals enforce their rights and seek the compensatory damages they deserve for their injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation at 678-251-9309.

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