They were diagnosed with uterine cancer and tumors. Now they are suing the makers of chemical straighteners.

Hair products such as dyes and chemical straighteners/relaxers contain a number of chemicals that can act as carcinogens or endocrine disruptors and therefore may be important for cancer risk, White said. Hair straighteners in particular contain chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, cyclosiloxanes and metals and can release formaldehyde when heated, she said. L’Oreal did not return a request for comment on whether its products could or did include these ingredients. The researchers did not collect information on the brands or ingredients of the hair products used by the women.

Uterine cancer rates are still relatively low, accounting for 3.4% of estimated new cancer cases this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Rates of uterine cancer in the United States have, however, increased, particularly among black women. White said the study showed black women were disproportionately more likely to use straightening irons. The study found that 1.64% of women who never used chemical hair straighteners or relaxers would develop uterine cancer before the age of 70, and for frequent users, that risk is more than double to 4.05%.

In a press release, L’Oréal said it was “confident in the safety of our products and believes that the recent lawsuits against us have no legal basis”.

“L’Oréal adheres to the highest safety standards for all of its products,” the company said. “Our products undergo rigorous scientific evaluation of their safety by experts who also ensure that we strictly follow all regulations in all markets in which we operate.”

L’Oréal also shared a statement from the Personal Care Products Council, a national trade association representing cosmetics and personal care products companies, in response to the study, stating that the study did not prove that the products or their ingredients directly caused uterine cancer. It also states that all cosmetic products and their ingredients, including hair straighteners and relaxers, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

The other companies named in the lawsuits did not return requests for comment. The women seek compensatory damages, as well as payment of medical bills, attorney fees and other expenses.

Rugieyatu Bhonopha, 39, of Vallejo, Calif., and Jenny Mitchell, 32, a Missouri resident whose plans to have children were dashed when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer at 28 and had a hysterectomy, both filed lawsuits. Like the other women, they said they used chemical straighteners because they felt pressure from society – including employers – to straighten their hair and try to live up to white beauty standards. This has changed over time as more and more women are embracing their natural hair textures and sporting natural hairstyles.

“I have to worry about whether I’m going to get him back or not, whether he’s going to come back in a different form,” Mitchell said. “Once you have uterine cancer, you may be more susceptible to colon cancer or breast cancer. A lot of people don’t know that. »

Bhonopha, whose lawsuit was filed Oct. 21, believes her fibroids were directly caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disruptors found in the hair care products she used.

“It’s a hard thing to have to realize that you’re dealing with fibroids, pregnancy loss,” she said. “And you had no idea that these products were dangerous, you had no idea that any of these harmful products were in there. Obviously, you wouldn’t have used them if you knew.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represents Mitchell and Gordon, said the lawsuits are aimed at raising awareness and removing these products from store shelves.

‘This is about trying to tell all black and brown parents that we shouldn’t keep trying to conform to European beauty standards by having our hair straightened with these chemicals, at the cost of possible destruction of our womb and our incapacity. having babies,” Crump said. “So it’s a public health crisis.”

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