Hair Relaxer and Endometriosis Lawsuits

Chemical hair relaxers (also called “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.

Our attorneys are now investigating potential new cases from women who were diagnosed with endometriosis after regularly using chemical hair relaxer for 10 years or longer. For a free consultation, contact our office today at 800-553-8082.


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About 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.

DEHP

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.

UNC Center for Endometriosis

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. It is very possible that we could see enough hair relaxer lawsuits filed in the next 6 months to prompt the formation of a new class action MDL.

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? There are 2 reasons. First, the causation evidence connecting hair relaxers to endometriosis is somewhat weaker than the causation evidence of breast cancer and uterine cancer. Second, endometriosis can be painful and cause fertility issues, but the condition is treatable and not life threatening like cancer.

Contact Us About 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 endometriosis. If you were diagnosed with endometriosis after years of regularly using a chemical hair straightener, contact our office today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

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