Hair Straightener Cancer Lawsuit In Chicago

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Hair Straightener Cancer Lawsuit In Chicago

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    November 2023 Update

    Hair relaxer cases will continue to go forward after federal judge Mary M. Rowland ruled against the majority of defendants’ bids to dismiss the consolidated hair relaxer cases. Filed in July 2023, the bids were an attempt by L’Oréal, Revlon, and other defendants to prevent plaintiffs’ filed cases from going forward. While Judge Rowland did accept the dismissal of four fraud-based claims, the bulk of the cases were allowed to stand.  

    While there is still a long road ahead for the hair relaxer multidistrict litigation, this is a significant victory for plaintiffs and a step towards achieving justice. 

    This content was reviewed by Molly Condon Wells.

    Why are people filing chemical hair straightener lawsuits?

    Wallace Miller and other law firms are filing lawsuits against the manufacturers of a number of hair relaxer products, or perms, based on recent research that found that the dangerous chemicals in hair straighteners increase the risk of significant health problems, including uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis.

    Although common hair relaxer products including Revlon’s Crème of Nature, Strength of Nature’s Motions, and SoftSheen-Carson’s Dark & Lovely have been marketed as safe and effective, a 2022 study from the National Institute of Health showed that women who experienced regular and prolonged exposure to these chemicals were at greater risk for dangerous health conditions, especially uterine cancer.

    If you believe that hair relaxer products have caused you or a loved one to develop uterine cancer, ovarian cancer,  or a similar diagnosis, you may be eligible to participate in the hair straightener cancer lawsuit. Contact Wallace Miller today at 312-261-6193 or fill out our online questionnaire to find out if you qualify for the hair relaxer lawsuit.

    What are hair relaxer & chemical hair straightening products?

    Chemical hair straightening products, also known as perms, permanent wave solutions, relaxers, and texturizers, are cosmetic products primarily used by Black women to relax, flatten and straighten hair. They are applied to the hair either at home or in a salon, usually once every four to six weeks.

    The first chemical hair straightener was produced by Garret Morgan in 1913 and commercial chemical straighteners were developed by Dark & Lovely (now owned by L’Oréal) in 1971. These hair care products have been aggressively marketed to Black women, including to young children through advertisements for products like Just For Me.

    A still from a 1993 Just For Me commercial.

    In 2020, the global African American hair care market estimate was $2.5 billion, with relaxers alone accounting for $718 million of that revenue. Prominent chemical hair straightener brands include L’Oréal, Revlon, Strength of Nature, Godrej Consumer Products, Namaste Labs, IHS Chemicals, and Eastman Chemical.

    How do chemical straighteners work?

    The hair shaft is composed of three layers: the central medulla, the cortex, and the outer cuticle. The cortex contains most of the hair strand’s mass, and the outer cuticle acts as a protective layer. Relaxers break down the protein bonds in the cortex of the hair strands, loosening curls and textures on contact.

    Specifically, chemical hair straightening breaks and restructures the disulfide bonds in textured and highly coiled hair. This effect is permanent, but new growth will maintain the original hair texture, so many women use relaxers regularly to maintain a consistent appearance.

    Photograph by Pixabay.


    Research over the past several decades has shown that hair straightening products contain many dangerous chemicals, and recent studies established a strong link between the use of chemical straighteners and uterine cancer. The chemicals in these products include phthalates (plasticizers), lye (sodium hydroxide), guanidine carbonate, succinic acid, formaldehyde, and placenta protein.

    What chemicals are in hair straighteners?

    In the late 1970s, Black women began noticing the damaging effects of lye-based hair straighteners, including breakage and hair loss. As a result, many companies introduced “gentle” hair straightening products that use other chemicals to achieve the same effect. However, the chemicals currently included in hair straighteners have been shown to cause a multitude of health problems, including cancer.

    Endocrine disrupting chemicals & phthalates in hair relaxers

    According to a paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) “interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for development, behavior, fertility and maintenance of homeostasis.” In other words, they disrupt the normal functioning of hormones and reproductive processes. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, breast cancer, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

    Despite their toxicity, chemical hair straightening products manufactured for the U.S. market have been found to contain high concentrations of these endocrine-disrupting agents. These can occur as fragrance or perfume in hair straighteners and are subsequently inhaled when applied to hair and scalp.

    DEHP in hair straighteners

    A toxic chemical called DEHP, or Di-2-etheyl hexyl phthalate, is a known endocrine disruptor that is often added to plastics to make them more flexible. Since its first use in 1949, DEHP has become the most commonly used phthalate in hair products because it creates a gel texture while preserving the scent of the products.

    A diagram of a DEHP molecule. Image courtesy of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

    The Environmental Protection Agency has classified DEHP as a probable human carcinogen that breaks down quickly in the body and creates dangerous metabolites. It has been linked with endocrine related illnesses including uterine fibroids, infertility, abnormal fetal development, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer.

    DEHP, as well as other EDCs found in hair straightener products, has been banned from cosmetic use by countries including Canada, Australia, Japan, and Mexico, as well as the European Union and the state of California.

    2022 study: Hair straightening chemicals linked to uterine cancer & health problems

    A recent study from the National Institute of Health (NIH), led by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, indicates a strong link between consumer hair relaxer use and cancer.

    Researchers who were seeking to identify risk factors for breast cancer and other health conditions found that women who frequently use hair relaxers were more than twice as likely to develop endometrial or uterine cancer. There was no association found between the use of hair dyes, bleach, or highlights and the risk of uterine cancer, although the team has found in the past that permanent hair dye and straighteners may increase breast cancer risk.

    Photograph by Pixabay.

    The study examined data from more than 33,000 participants between the ages of 35 and 74 and determined that people who used chemical hair straightening products at least four times a year had a 4.05% risk of developing uterine cancer or endometrial cancer. When compared to the estimated risk of 1.64% for individuals who have never used hair relaxers, researchers behind the study noted the increased rate as “concerning.”

    In addition to endometrial, uterine and ovarian cancer risk, research suggests that chemical hair relaxers may increase the likelihood of developing uterine fibroids and endometriosis, as well as associated complications such as infertility.

    “We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” said Alexandra White, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group and lead author on the new study. Uterine cancer accounts for about 3% of all new cancer cases but is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, with 65,950 estimated new cases in 2022.

    Black women face the greatest exposure burden from chemical hair relaxers

    Despite the relative rarity of uterine and endometrial cancer diagnoses, the study observed the rising incidence rates in the United States, particularly among Black women. The study noted that among the participants who reported using hair relaxers in the previous year, 60% self-identified as Black women.

    Authors of the study noted that Black women tend to use hair relaxing products more frequently and at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, making the results especially relevant to their health.

    Black women have historically faced excessive scrutiny and discrimination relating to their hair, and the marketing of many commercial hair relaxers reflect this. Many of the top selling brands exclusively feature Black women on their packaging and advertisements, reinforcing the stigma against their natural hair.

    Chandra Jackson, one of the study’s authors, also noted that products specifically targeted to Black women frequently use more caustic formulations than products marketed to other races and ethnicities.

    “Based off of the body of the literature in this area, we know that hair products marketed directly to Black children and women have been shown to contain multiple chemicals associated with disrupting hormones, and these products marketed to Black women have also been shown to have harsher chemical formulations,” said Jackson.

    Despite recent legislation aimed at eliminating discrimination due to the texture and style of one’s hair, many women of color still face bigotry and societal pressures for not meeting Eurocentric standards of beauty.

    Key studies of hair straightening chemicals before 2022

    While the NIH study provided the most conclusive evidence for the harmful effects of chemical hair straighteners and led to new hair relaxer lawsuits, the scientific community has been investigating the potential risks of these products in research over the last decade.

    A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that hair relaxer use could lead to increased risk of uterine cancer. Studies in 2013, 2015, and 2022 supported the hypothesis that exposure to dangerous chemicals, particularly phthalates, in chemical hair straighteners doubled the risk of endometriosis due to an increase in the “invasive and proliferative activities” of endometrial cells.

    In 2018, the toxic chemical DEHP was linked to increased levels of leiomyoma cells, a precondition to endometriosis, in mice. That same year, a paper published in Environmental Research found that “hair products used by Black women and children contained multiple chemicals associated with endocrine disruption and asthma.”

    Hair straightener cancer lawsuit filed against manufacturers

    Since the release of the NIH study, several hair relaxer cancer lawsuits against chemical hair straightener companies have been filed and a serious multidistrict litigation (MDL) has been formed.

    Jenny Mitchell became one of the first people to file a cancer lawsuit against the chemical hair relaxer products in October 2022. The new hair relaxer lawsuit stated that she developed cancer at the age of 32 and underwent a full hysterectomy. In November 2022, plaintiffs Carla G. Rose and Dollie Dillon filed a hair relaxer class action against Dabur International after developing uterine cancer, and as of February 2023, more than 55 chemical hair straightener lawsuit cases had been filed according to an order from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

    These cases were pending in 19 judicial districts across the country, including New York, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, and California. As of February 2023, the active hair straightener cases have been consolidated as federal hair relaxer lawsuits in the Northern District of Illinois before U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland. The litigations allege that the defendants knew the chemical hair straighteners had harmful effects on those using them but continued to market them anyway. In addition, the suits claim that the manufacturers deliberately targeted Black women.

    In a statement to NBC Chicago, L’Oréal USA stood by its hair relaxer products, stating, “We are confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit.”

    What brands have been named in the chemical hair relaxer lawsuits?

    So far, the company with the largest alleged involvement in the hair relaxer lawsuit is L’Oréal. Cases continue to emerge, but at this point, Optimum Care and Dark & Lovely by SoftSheen-Carson (owned by L’Oréal), Revlon Professional Conditioning Crème Relaxer and Crème of Nature by Revlon, Motions and Soft & Beautiful by Strength of Nature, and XTenso by L’Oréal are among the products being investigated by Wallace Miller.

    Contact our firm for a free and confidential legal consultation at 312-261-6193 or fill out our online questionnaire.

    Hair straightener lawsuit timeline & updates

    July 2023: Revlon, amid bankruptcy, counters plaintiff’s June 30 report, asserting misrepresentation of bankruptcy proceedings in the ongoing hair relaxer lawsuit. The company requires “Hair Straightening Claims” to adhere to proof-of-claim procedures. Claims must be filed by Sep 14, 2023, with recovery, if any, discharged in bankruptcy if not insurance-covered.

    May 15, 2023: A Master Long Form Complaint was filed by MDL leadership attorneys, including hair relaxer attorneys from Wallace Miller. This complaint presents an overview of common allegations that apply to all plaintiffs and allows future lawsuits to be filed more efficiently.

    April 18, 2023: Judge Mary Rowland presided over a conference on pretrial proceedings. In addition to discussing how to most efficiently coordinate hair relaxer cancer lawsuit cases brought in state and federal courts, the Judge is expected to set up a bellwether process that will impact settlement offers made later in the process. According to a docket report, there are now more than 100 hair relaxer cases in the MDL and more are expected to be filed.

    March 3, 2023: Three Wallace Miller attorneys were appointed to leadership roles on the hair relaxer litigation. Molly Condon Wells was appointed to the Leadership Development Committee, Edward Wallace was appointed as Liaison Counsel, and Mark Miller was appointed as Co-Chair of the Law and Briefing Committee. The hair straightener cancer lawsuit MDL now includes more than 78 cases.

    February 2023: The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidates more than 50 chemical hair straightener lawsuits.

    November 2022: A motion is filed to consolidate hair straightener lawsuits from 19 states into an MDL in the Northern District of Illinois.

    October-November 2022: A number of plaintiffs, including Jenny Mitchell in Chicago, file chemical hair straightener lawsuits.

    October 2022: A study from the NIH links regular and prolonged exposure to hair relaxers to higher uterine cancer risk, breast cancer risk, and uterine fibroid growth.

    Wallace Miller: Investigating claims about chemical hair straighteners & increased risk for uterine cancer

    Wallace Miller primarily focuses on protecting the rights of victims of negligence and fraud. We are routinely appointed by federal and state courts to serve as leaders in national litigation, and our attorneys have obtained ground-breaking verdicts in a variety of cases across the nation. But more importantly, we are committed to obtaining justice for each and every one of our clients.

    Left to right: Nicholas P. Kelly, Edward A. Wallace, Molly Condon Wells, Mark R. Miller, Jessica Wieczorkiewicz, Timothy E. Jackson.

    We know that there are many choices available to you when looking for a lawyer to represent you. What sets us apart from others is our commitment to our clients, our ability to handle complex high-stakes litigation, and our outstanding track record of success. We only take on cases that the firm has faith in and believe can make a difference in our clients’ lives, including the hair relaxer MDL.

    Our attorneys are currently investigating cases related to uterine and ovarian cancer. If you have used a hair straightener product at least four times a year for several years and have been diagnosed with uterine cancer or another of these conditions, you may be eligible for our chemical hair straightener lawsuit. To receive a response quickly, call our office line at 312-261-6193 or fill out our online questionnaire.

    Find out more about our legal team here.

    Am I eligible for the hair relaxer lawsuit?

    When products, including cosmetics, are introduced into the market, consumers expect that they will be safe to use. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In these circumstances, the plaintiffs in lawsuits take action against the manufacturers to seek compensation for damages caused by the product — in this case, the hair relaxer products manufactured by the defendants.

    At Wallace Miller, we understand how frustrating these situations can become. Our lawyers help clients with their cases by using their expertise to manage the legal process efficiently.

    The study from the NIH has increased media coverage of these cases, and you have likely heard or read about the dangers of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer caused by using hair relaxer products or perms. Any individual who has a history of using chemical hair relaxers and who has also had a subsequent diagnosis may be entitled to join the litigation alongside other hair relaxer lawsuits filed.

    Wallace Miller has a proven track record in these types of cases. We’re prepared to act with urgency as we put our legal expertise to work on your behalf.

    What are the symptoms of endometrial & uterine cancer?

    The symptoms of uterine cancer can resemble those of many other conditions. However, there are some key early warning signs:

    • Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods or post-menopause
    • Lower abdominal pain or cramping in the pelvis
    • Bloody or watery discharge
    • Pain during urination or sexual intercourse
    • Unintentional weight loss
    • Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience possible signs of endometrial or uterine cancer.


    Front and side diagram of the uterus and surrounding organs. (Pixabay)

    See if you qualify for a chemical hair straightener lawsuit

    The attorneys at Wallace Miller have decades of experience fighting for clients who have been harmed by dangerous products. If you believe that hair straighteners caused you or a loved one to develop endometrial or uterine cancer or a similar medical diagnosis, contact us today at 312-261-6193 or via our online questionnaire. The information you provide is always kept private.

    Upon reviewing your information, Wallace Miller will contact you about your potential case via the phone number and email address you provide.

    How long do I have to file a hair straightener lawsuit for uterine or ovarian cancer?

    Wallace Miller is still taking on cases for hair straightener cancer lawsuits. However, the litigation is developing quickly and each state puts a limit on the time a plaintiff has to file their case, so the sooner we are able to discuss your case with you, the better.

    If you think you may qualify, call our office today at 312-736-2697 or fill out our online questionnaire for an assessment in minutes.

    How much do lawyers for a hair straightener lawsuit cost?

    It may surprise you to hear this, but you will not incur any kind of fee from Wallace Miller unless we win your case. Wallace Miller relies entirely on successful settlements to pay operation fees, so there is no out-of-pocket cost for our clients.

    What information do I need for a hair relaxer lawsuit?

    Evidence is crucial when a plaintiff is bringing a case against a manufacturer. When you discuss your case with us, we will ask about your history of chemical hair straightener usage as well as your medical diagnoses.

    Based on the information you provide, we will assess whether we think you have a case against the defendants’ toxic hair straighteners. Ultimately, the chemical hair straightener lawyers at Wallace Miller are responsible for using the evidence available to argue your case effectively.

    Hair relaxer litigation continues to grow

    The chemical hair straightener cancer lawsuits are continuing to expand. As part of the coordination of the litigation in the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Rowland will oversee discussions on how to proceed with the cases and set up a bellwether process. Once that process begins, representative hair straightener lawsuit cases will go to early trial to gauge how cases are likely to perform in court.

    Contact Wallace Miller at 312-261-6193 or via our online questionnaire to discuss your potential hair relaxer lawsuit today.

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