Chemical hair relaxers and hair perms are products routinely used by a majority of African American women in the U.S. Scientific research has recently established that the chemicals in hair relaxers can cause endometriosis, infertility and other serious health conditions. Lawsuits are now being file by women who may have developed endometriosis from prolonged use of hair perms or hair relaxers. There is a class action lawsuit ongoing in New York that has consolidated all endometriosis hair relaxers lawsuits together.
Endometriosis is a chronic medical condition affecting millions of women worldwide and about 10% to 15% of women in the U.S. It is a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. This tissue growth can occur on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer walls of the uterus, and other areas near the uterus and pelvis. It can also spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs, brain, and other organs.
Endometriosis is a hormone-dependent condition that often begins during the reproductive years and can continue well into menopause. The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are several theories, including retrograde menstruation, genetic predisposition, and immune system dysfunction.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of endometriosis vary from woman to woman, but some of the most common include painful periods, painful intercourse, heavy menstrual bleeding, and infertility. Many women with endometriosis also experience chronic pain, fatigue, and digestive problems.
Diagnosing endometriosis can be difficult, as the symptoms can be similar to other conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease or ovarian cysts. To make a definitive diagnosis, a doctor must perform a surgical procedure called laparoscopy, which involves inserting a small camera through a small incision in the belly button to visualize the tissue growth.
There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are several treatments available that can help manage the symptoms. Hormonal therapies, such as birth control pills, can help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce the severity of symptoms. Other medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and GnRH agonists, can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Surgery is another option for treating endometriosis. Laparoscopic surgery can remove the tissue growth, but it does not guarantee that the symptoms will not return. A hysterectomy, which involves the removal of the uterus, can be an effective treatment for endometriosis in some women, but it is often seen as a last resort, as it is a major surgery and will end the ability to have children.
There are also alternative treatments that can help manage the symptoms of endometriosis, including physical therapy, acupuncture, and dietary changes. Stress management techniques, such as meditation and mindfulness, can also be helpful in managing pain and reducing stress.
Living with endometriosis can be difficult, both physically and emotionally. It can impact a woman’s quality of life, relationships, and career. However, with proper treatment and support, many women with endometriosis are able to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.
Hair Relaxers or Hair Perms
Hair relaxer (also referred to as “hair perm” or “hair straightener”) is a cosmetic product that many Black women use to manipulate their hair and force it to flatten out. A strong cocktail of chemicals in hair relaxer products weaken the protein structure of hair strands which forces the hair to lay flat.
Most chemical hair relaxer products utilize phthalates, special chemicals known as “plasticizers” which are used to add plastic-like durability and flexibility to many different types of cosmetics. Phthalates are problematic because they are known to be endocrine-disrupting-chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are chemicals that interact and disrupt the normal operation and flow of the human endocrine system which produces and distributes hormones in the body.
The phthalate found in most hair relaxers that is particularly harmful is called Di-2- ethyl hexyl phthalate (“DEHP”). When DEHP enters the body it breaks down into various metabolites, many of which are highly toxic.
DEHP and its metabolites are known to cause significant adverse-health effects including but not limited to: endometriosis, developmental abnormalities, reproductive dysfunction and infertility, various cancers, and metabolic syndrome.
Hair Relaxer User Can Cause Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that normally grows on the inside of the uterus, abnormally forms and grows outside of the uterus (e.g., ovaries, fallopian tubes). Endometriosis can be very painful, and it is also a common cause of female infertility. Half of all women with endometriosis will experience fertility problems.
Endometriosis is associated with phthalate metabolites found in hair care products. Numerous studies over the last decade have found that DEHP (a chemical found in hair relaxer) leads to the development of endometriosis.
DEHP increases the viability, activity, proliferation, and migration of endometrial stromal cells, a required precondition of endometriosis. Juhye Kim, et al., Chronic Low-Dose Nonylphenol or Di-(2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate has a Different Estrogen-like Response in Mouse Uterus, Development & reproduction, Vol. 22(4):379-391 (2018).
A 2013 study published in Human Reproduction found that endometriotic women have significantly higher plasma DEHP concentrations than those without the disease.
Another study published in 2013 that included a sample size of approximately 500 women living in various states observed that DEHP’s metabolite, MEHP, a was the only phthalate consistently associated with endometriosis.
Hair Relaxer Linked to Uterine Cancer and Other Diseases
Aside from endometriosis, new evidence has established that chronic exposure to chemical hair relaxer is directly can cause uterine cancer, breast cancer and several other hormone related diseases and health conditions. A major new study was published in October 2022 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found that regular use of chemical hair relaxer increased the risk of developing uterine cancer by 100%.
In 2021, a study at Oxford University determined that black woman who used chemical hair relaxer a minimum of 7 times per year for 15-years or longer displayed a 30% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer.
Additional studies have linked long-term use of hair relaxer or hair perms to uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumors in the uterine tissue). According to a 2012 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who regularly used hair relaxer significantly increased their risk of developing uterine fibroids.
The use of hair relaxer has also been linked to increased risk of endometriosis, a condition in which uterine tissue abnormally grows outside the uterus and often causes female infertility. A collection of medical studies have established that DEHP exposure increases the risk of endometriosis by increasing the production of certain cells that lead to the condition.
Hair Relaxer Lawsuit
In October 2022, Jenny Mitchell filed the very first hair relaxer cancer lawsuit against L’Oreal and a handful of other cosmetic companies (Mitchell v. L’Oreal USA, et al.). Mitchell started using hair relaxers at age 10 and was diagnosed with uterine cancer at age 28.
Her lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago, alleges that her uterine cancer was caused by exposure to the chemicals in the hair relaxer products. She claims that the cosmetic companies knew or should have known about the potential link between uterine cancer and the chemicals in their products, but failed to warn about this risk, or design a safer alternative.
The hair relaxer lawsuit filed by Jenny Mitchell is the first of what could potentially be thousands of similar product liability cases filed in the years to come now that we have a hair relaxer class action lawsuit.
Estimated Settlement Payout of Hair Relaxer Endometriosis Lawsuits
Providing accurate estimates for the settlement value of new lawsuits like this is always problematic. At this point, nobody knows for certain whether these cases are going to be successful or whether the scientific evidence on causation will be admissible in court.
Given these limitations, however, we can still provide a fairly reasonable estimate as to the potential value of endometriosis hair relaxer lawsuits. Our attorneys believe that a strong case alleging endometriosis was caused by hair relaxer could have a potential settlement payout between $110,000 to $300,000.
Why is this settlement value estimate so low compared to cancer claims? There are two reasons. First, the causation evidence connecting hair relaxers to endometriosis is somewhat weaker than the causation evidence of ovarian or uterine cancer. Second, endometriosis can be painful and cause fertility issues, but the condition is treatable and not life threatening like cancer. But the endometriosis surgery cases – which our law firm is handling – should still have meaningful settlement amounts. Finally, and this is an update in June , we do not think these claims will be pursued by lawyers in the MDL class action who are really focusing on cancer claims.
Filing a Hair Relaxer Endometriosis Lawsuit
Our firm is currently investigating product liability cases alleging that chemicals in hair perm and hair relaxer products caused endometrial cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer. We are no longer taking endometriois only cases. That could change in the future.