Posted by : Irvin Jackson
Lawsuit indicates regular and prolonged exposure to hair relaxer caused ovarian cancer, alleging that users are not warned about the potential risk.
- Dark & Lovely, Optimum, Motions and other hair relaxers contain toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), according to a lawsuit filed last week.
- Plaintiff indicates that she developed ovarian cancer from hair relaxers when she was 35, after regularly applying the chemicals to her scalp since she was 16 years old
- Complaint points to a growing body of research linking hair relaxers and cancer
- Panel of federal judges will meet later this month to determine whether this case and other hair relaxer lawsuits should all be consolidated for pretrial proceedings
A Missouri woman has filed a lawsuit against the makers of Dark & Lovely, Optimum, Motions, and other widely used hair straightening products, alleging that users are not informed about the risk hair relaxers may cause ovarian cancer after years of exposure to the toxic chemicals.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Tamara Sigars on January 11, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, indicating that she developed ovarian cancer from the hair relaxers when she was only 35, after regularly using the products since she was at least 16 years old.
Sigars is seeking financial damages from LâOreal, SoftSheen-Carson, Strength of Nature, and Namaste Laboratories, for distributing products with toxic phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), while telling women it was safe to apply the hair relaxers directly to their scalps.
The case is one of a growing number of hair relaxer cancer lawsuits filed in recent weeks, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturers knew that chemicals in their hair relaxers may cause ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and other devastating injuries. However, rather than warning about the potential risk, manufacturers continued to aggressively market the relaxers and perms, specifically targeted young Black children, creating generations of devoted customers who did not know they were exposing themselves to an increased risk of cancer.
Regular exposure to chemicals in hair relaxer may cause uterine cancer, breast cancer and other injuries. Women diagnosed with cancer may be eligible for settlement benefits.
Sigars states that she began using the products in 1991, and continued to apply the hair relaxer for at least two decades. In 2020, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which the lawsuit claims were a direct result of regular and prolonged exposure to chemicals in hair relaxers.
“Ms. Sigars would keep the [relaxer] on her hair for the time allotted in the instructions,” according to the lawsuit. “There was never any indication, on the Products packaging or otherwise, that this normal use could and would cause her to develop ovarian cancer.”
As a result of the ovarian cancer diagnosis from hair relaxers, Sigars underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy and required numerous rounds of chemotherapy, resulting in extreme pain, suffering, and extreme emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.
Hair Relaxer Ovarian Cancer Risks
In support of her claim, Sigars points to a large body of medical research that highlights the adverse side effects endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in hair relaxers can have on the body, including studies published in recent years that established a direct connection between hair relaxer and cancer.
EDCs are known to interfere with the normal activity of the endocrine system and have been linked to the development of various cancers, endometriosis, abnormalities in reproductive organs, and other injuries.
“Defendants did not provide adequate warnings to Plaintiff regarding the dangers associated with phthalates and EDCs in the Products and failed to exercise reasonable care,” Sigars’ lawsuit states. “Had Plaintiff received a warning that the use of the products would significantly increase her risk of developing [cancer], she would not have used them. Plaintiff was justified in her reliance on Defendants’ labeling and advertising of the products.”
In October 2022, researchers published findings in theÂ Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which warned that ingredients used in the chemical hair relaxers may cause uterine cancer, finding that the rate of uterine cancer was nearly three times greater among women who frequently used hair relaxer chemicals, compared to women who never used the products.
Concerns about the ovarian cancer risk from hair relaxers first emerged in 2021, when a study published in the medical journal Carcinogenesis found that frequent use of hair relaxers more than four times a year was associated with an increased risk. Researchers evaluated data from the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) “Sister Study”, which involved data on more than 40,000 women, and determined that users of hair relaxers may be twice as likely to develop certain types of ovarian cancer, compared to women who never used the products.
A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Cancer (IJC) issued similar findings, indicating women who reported regularly using straighteners and permanent hair dyes were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer than non-users. Over an eight-year period, researchers identified 2,794 cases ofÂ breast cancer after chemical hair straighteners use.
Thousands of Hair Relaxer Cancer Lawsuits Expected in 2023
As more women learn that their long-term use of hair relaxers may be the cause of uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and other injuries linked to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals, a growing number of hair relaxer cancer lawsuits are expected to be filed throughout the remainder of 2023.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints already pending throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has scheduled a hearing for next week, to determine whether all lawsuits over hair relaxers and cancer should be centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
If consolidated pretrial proceedings are established, the ovarian cancer claim filed by Sigars will be consolidated with all hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuits and other claims brought by women diagnosed with injuries caused by EDCs in the products. However, if the parties fail to reach a settlement after discovery and a series of early bellwether trials, each case may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date in the future.
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