A lawsuit against beauty giant L’Oreal alleges that the chemical hair straightening products sold increased the user’s risk of developing uterine cancer.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, counsel Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann and others filed a lawsuit Friday in Illinois on behalf of 32-year-old Missouri resident Jenny Mitchell, claiming that Mitchell’s uterine cancer “was directly and proximately caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in Defendants’ hair care products.”
Mitchell was diagnosed with uterine cancer on August 10, 2018, according to the lawsuit, and underwent a full hysterectomy at Boone Hospital Center in Missouri on September 24, 2018.
“At that time, at the age of 28, my dreams of becoming a mother were gone,” she said. In the lawsuit, she claims to have no family history of cancer or uterine cancer.
“As most young African-American girls, chemical relaxers, chemical straighteners were introduced to us at a young age,” Mitchell said. “Society has made it a norm to look a certain way, in order to feel a certain way. And I am the first voice of many voices to come that will stand, stand up to these companies, and say, ‘No more.’”
The suit comes on the heels of a new National Institutes of Health study that found frequent chemical hair straightening doubled the risk of developing uterine cancer among women compared with those who did not use the products.
Because Black women are more likely than others to use these products, researchers noted the risk of developing uterine cancer was particularly high in this group.
The NIH study included data on more than 33,000 women between the ages of 35 and 74. During a follow-up period of nearly 11 years, 378 cases of uterine cancer were diagnosed.
Debrosse Zimmermann told CNN on Monday that the lawsuit marks a “watershed moment” for women of colour who have used chemical hair-straightening products, such as relaxers.
Other companies sued include Strength of Nature Global LLC, Soft Sheen Carson (W.I.) Inc., Dabur International Ltd. and Dabur USA Inc., and Namaste Laboratories.
“L’Oreal must be held accountable for specifically marketing chemical hair straighteners that contain carcinogenic properties and hazardous chemicals to Black women — without any regard for their health complications,” Crump tweeted today.