Phthalates in Hair Relaxers Connected to Cancer Risk

Phthalates in Hair Relaxers Connected to Cancer Risk

Manufacturers of chemical hair relaxers are facing product liability lawsuits for failing to warn users that they contain carcinogens. Women who frequently use chemical hair relaxers are learning that these products include a group of chemicals known as phthalates. Exposure to these chemicals has been shown to increase a woman’s risk of developing certain kinds of hormone-sensitive cancers and other reproductive health issues. Women are now filing chemical hair relaxer lawsuits to hold manufacturers like L’Oreal accountable for their damages.

Product liability attorneys are working to compile evidence that demonstrates plaintiffs’ injuries are caused by manufacturers’ negligence and that they deserve compensation for damages like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have regularly used chemical hair relaxers and subsequently developed reproductive health issues such as cancer, you should schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney. They can help evaluate what your claim is worth and negotiate for the compensation you need for your damages.

Understanding the Dangers of Phthalates Like DEHP

Phthalates refer to a group of chemical compounds that have been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. Di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP) is one of several toxic chemicals present in chemical hair relaxers, despite its known risks and tight regulation. It is used as an additive to make products like PVC pipes, blood storage bags, and shower curtains to make them more flexible and durable. DEHP is known risk to fertility and unborn children, and it can be absorbed through the skin, ingested, inhaled, or passed from mother to child in utero. 

Phthalate Presence in Hair Relaxers

In the context of the chemical hair relaxer claims, it has been included in the list of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can cause cancer. Essentially, the body relies on signals from hormones to function. The phthalates in the chemical hair relaxers have been entering users’ bodies through their scalp, where the body interprets them as the hormone estrogen. When estrogen levels are high, it can cause abnormal cell growth in a woman’s reproductive organs, such as her uterus. The cancerous cells then leech off of the healthy surrounding tissue and cause catastrophic damage.

DEHP’s presence was concealed from consumers because the FDA does not require the disclosure of fragrance compounds in cosmetics, so this phthalate was undetected by many until the product's carcinogenic tendency was called into question by new research studies. Without knowing that DEHP was present in their chemical hair relaxers, women didn’t have the opportunity to avoid it, therefore avoiding their injuries. Despite increasing scrutiny, chemical hair relaxer manufacturers have refused to recall their phthalate-laden products.

Women File Claims Against Chemical Hair Relaxer Manufacturers Over Failure to Warn

About 100 product liability claims have been filed against the makers of chemical hair relaxers on the basis that these companies neglected to warn consumers of the risk they were undertaking by using chemical hair relaxers. A group of federal judges agreed that logistically it made the most sense to consolidate these claims into a multidistrict litigation, given the similarity of the claims. 

Chemical Hair Relaxer Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

The chemical hair relaxer multidistrict litigation is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland of the Northern District of Illinois. Since taking charge of the MDL, Judge Rowland has appointed lead counsel for plaintiffs and defendants to do work on behalf of their respective sides. A Defendants’ Liaison Counsel has also been appointed to facilitate communication between the court and the representatives of the defendants

To further expedite the process, Judge Rowland has allowed plaintiffs to file their claims directly with the MDL. Plaintiffs may also file a Master Complaint to condense their issues into a shorter format for the courts to process. This will likely be beneficial in the coming months, as plaintiffs’ lawyers anticipate an influx of chemical hair relaxer cancer claims.

Prolonged Use of Chemical Hair Relaxers Causes Harm to Reproductive Organs

Many women learned of the connection between chemical hair relaxer usage and cancer after the findings of a 2022 NIH study were widely reported on. Researchers highlighted a few key conclusions of the study, including that using a chemical hair relaxer four or more times a year put a woman at more than twice the risk of developing uterine cancer. A woman with naturally curly hair who wanted to maintain a straightened style could conceivably use a chemical hair straightener eight times a year, for multiple years, significantly increasing her lifetime risk.

Additionally, NIH researchers pointed out that Black women who are more likely to use these products with greater regularity are potentially at a higher risk as compared to other demographics. This NIH study adds to an existing body of evidence that supported the idea that chemical hair relaxers contained concerning levels of carcinogens. Thus far, research points to the following conditions being connected to the frequent use of chemical hair relaxers: 

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Chemical Hair Relaxer Cancer Lawsuit

Consumers deserve to know if there are harmful toxins in their products. In the case of chemical hair relaxers, manufacturers exploited prevailing biases against naturally curly hair to market their carcinogenic product to women of color. Women who used chemical hair relaxers are now paying the price with their physical health, reproductive futures, and financial stability. 

Product liability attorneys are an invaluable asset to have in a mass tort claim like this, particularly because they have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation. Plaintiffs can still secure compensation that corresponds with their specific damages, but negotiating for a settlement that reflects that is best left to an experienced advocate. 

A chemical hair relaxer cancer attorney can offer many beneficial services, such as managing the administrative side of filing a personal injury claim, negotiating for maximum compensation, and protecting your right to seek compensation for your damages. Don’t risk recovering less compensation than you deserve. Instead, schedule a free consultation with a chemical hair relaxer attorney to begin the process of filing a product liability claim and holding negligent manufacturers liable for your damages.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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