The cosmetics company L’Oréal, along with many other parties, is being sued over claims that its hair-straightening chemicals increase the risk of uterine cancer in women.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, counselor Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann and others filed a lawsuit Friday in Illinois on behalf of 32-year-old Missouri resident Jenny Mitchell, alleging that Mitchell’s uterine cancer “was caused directly and immediately from their exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in Defendants’ hair care products.”
CNN has reached out to L’Oréal, Namaste Laboratories LLC, Dabur International Ltd. and Godrej Consumer Products, the parent company of the Just For Me brand, for comment.
Debrosse Zimmermann told CNN Monday that the lawsuit marks a “defining moment” for women of color who have used chemical hair-straightening products such as relaxers.
At a news conference Monday, Mitchell said he remembers getting hair straighteners around the third grade, when he was about 8 years old.
Mitchell was diagnosed with uterine cancer on August 10, 2018, according to the lawsuit, and underwent a complete hysterectomy at Boone Hospital Center in Missouri on September 24, 2018.
“At that point, at the age of 28, my dreams of being a mother were dashed,” she said. In the lawsuit, she claims to have no family history of cancer or uterine cancer.
“Like most young African-American girls, chemical relaxers and chemical relaxers were introduced to us at a young age,” Mitchell said. “Society has made it the norm to look a certain way to feel a certain way. And I am the first voice of many voices to come who will rise up, confront these companies and say: ‘No more’”.
Mitchell continued to use hair-straightening chemicals from around 2000 through March 2022, and is seeking compensation of more than $75,000, according to the lawsuit.
Two other individual cases, in California and New York, have been filed against cosmetics companies, including L’Oreal, alleging a connection between hair-straightening chemicals and cancer diagnoses, Debrosse Zimmermann said.
“We envision that we will continue to represent additional women in filing cases, just like other firms, and more and more women will come forward,” he said.
Mitchell’s lawsuit comes just days after the publication of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which estimates that among women who frequently use chemical hair-straightening products, the risk of developing uterine cancer at 70 years is about 4%. In women who did not use chemical hair straightening products in the previous 12 months, the study estimates that the risk of developing uterine cancer at age 70 is 1.6%.
Black women tend to use these hair-straightening chemicals more often than white women, the researchers noted.
Study data showed that the association between hair straightening products and uterine cancer was more pronounced for black women, who made up only 7.4% of study participants, but 59.9% of those who reported ever using relaxers.
Several factors are likely to play a role in the frequent use of hair straightening products: Eurocentric beauty standards and social pressures placed on Black and Latin women in the workplace related to microaggressions and the threat of discrimination, along with the desired versatility in changing hairstyles and self-esteem. expression.
“Black women have long been victims of dangerous products marketed specifically to them,” Crump said in a press release. “Black hair has been and always will be beautiful, but black women have been told that they must use these products to meet society’s standards. We will likely find that the tragic case of Ms. Mitchell is one of countless cases where Black women were aggressively misled by businesses to increase their profits.”