L’Oreal Cosmetics, along with other parties, is being sued for allegedly putting women at increased risk of developing uterine cancer by its hair straightening products.
Lawyer Ben Crump and Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann, civil rights counsel, filed a lawsuit in Illinois Friday on behalf of Jenny Mitchell, a Missouri resident, 32, alleging that Mitchell’s uterine carcinoma was directly and proximately due to Mitchell’s prolonged and regular exposure to phthalates, and other hormone-disrupting chemicals in hair care products.
Debrosse Zimmermann stated Monday that the lawsuit is a “watershed” moment for women of color who used chemical hair-straightening products, such as relaxers.
Mitchell stated Monday at a news conference that she remembers using hair relaxers in third grade when she was 8 years old.
According to the lawsuit Mitchell was diagnosed with uterine carcinoma on August 10, 2018. He underwent a full-body hysterectomy at Boone Hospital Center, Missouri on September 24, 2018.
She stated that her dreams of becoming a mother at 28 years old were over. She claims that she has no family history of cancer or any uterine cancer.
Mitchell stated that chemical relaxers and chemical straighteners were given to her at an early age. “Society has made it a standard to look a particular way to feel certain things. And I’m the first of many voices that will speak out against these companies and say, “No more.”
Mitchell used chemical hair straightening products between 2000 and March 2022. According to the lawsuit, Mitchell is seeking damages over $75,000
Debrosse Zimmermann stated that two other cases were filed against cosmetic companies in California and New York. They claimed a link between the use of chemical hair straighteners and the diagnosis of cancer.
She said, “We believe that we will continue to represent additional women in filing cases as will other firms and more women will come forward.”
Mitchell’s lawsuit was filed days after a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It is estimated that women who use hair-straightening chemicals are at risk of developing uterine carcinoma by age 70. The study found that women who have not used hair-straightening chemicals in the past 12 months are at a 1.6% risk of developing uterine carcinoma by 70.
Researchers found that Black women use chemical hair straightening products more often than White women.
Study data revealed that the association between hair straightening products, uterine cancer, and Black women was strongest. They accounted for 7.4% of study participants, but 59.9% of those who had ever used straighteners.
There are likely several factors that contribute to the widespread use of hair straightening tools: Eurocentric beauty standards and social pressures on Black and Latina women at work related to microaggressions, the risk of discrimination, and desired flexibility in changing hairstyles.
Crump stated in a press release that “Black women have been victims of dangerous products specifically targeted to them” and “Black hair is beautiful and will always be so, but Black women have been told that they must use these products to conform to society’s standards. We will likely discover that Mitchell’s case is just one of many instances in which black women were misled by companies to increase their profits.