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Last Fall, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a study linking the use of chemical hair straightening products to uterine cancer. The study also reaffirmed the connection between the products and the development of some breast and ovarian cancers while stressing Black and Latina women have the potential to suffer the greatest impact.

“Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them,” the report said.

Since the NIH shared its findings, women with cancer have filed hair straightener lawsuits against cosmetic giant L’Oreal and other beauty companies, alleging their products increased their risk of uterine cancer. On February 6, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation agreed to centralize the hair straightener cancer lawsuits. The litigation has been assigned to Judge Mary Rowland in the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

While the recent news is shedding light on the dangers of using these types of chemical hair treatments, it is important that consumers recognize that they have been linked to other reproductive issues as well.  

Hidden Dangers in Hair Products

The concerns over hair straighteners and hair relaxers stem from chemicals found in the products, including Bisphenol A (BPA) and other phthalates. In scientific circles, they are referred to as “plasticizers” because they are durable to certain types of pliable plastics. In hair treatments, they can easily be absorbed into a person’s system by way of the scalp, particularly if there are any open wounds.

Once they enter a person’s system, they can become “endocrine disruptors,” throwing off the balance of a body’s hormones by essentially mirroring what natural hormones do.

With this breakdown, this chemically-induced miscommunication in a person’s body, dangerous levels of hormones, like estrogen, or an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, can occur.

Here is a look at some of the other reproductive issues associated with chemical hair straighteners: 

Uterine fibroids: These are growths made of smooth muscle cells that develop inside the uterus, and their development can cause pelvic pain, abnormally heavy periods, abnormal uterine bleeding, infertility, and complications in pregnancy. While doctors do not know the exact cause of fibroids, a recent study showed the correlation between these types of hormone-disrupting chemicals and the growth of fibroids.

Preterm birth: A 2016 study in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine found that not only can BPA cause a woman trouble with her hormones, but the chemicals can cause abnormal inflammation, which can lead to problems during pregnancy, including spontaneous preterm delivery. The publication reported, “During the past decade, there has been an increasing appreciation of how exposure to industrial chemicals in widespread use may increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

Peripheral Precocious Puberty: This is a type of early onset of puberty, and the symptoms include pubic and underarm hair, rapid growth, acne, and adult body odor. In females, it can consist of breast growth and early menstruation; in males, it includes enlarged testicles and penis, facial hair, and deepening of the voice. 

Typically, puberty starts when a pre-teen’s brain produces the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). When GnRH reaches the pituitary gland, more hormones, including estrogen or testosterone, begin production. However, peripheral precocious puberty can be caused when estrogen or testosterone is released into the body by an external source like a cream or ointment. As mentioned above, Black women begin using these chemical hair products at an earlier age, so doctors and researchers have stressed that they could be more at risk of this condition. 

Legal Help for Hair Straightener-Related Health Issues

The costs associated with a debilitating illness can be devastating to an individual and their family. If you or someone you know has used chemical hair straightening products and suffered injuries, including those listed in this article, a personal injury attorney with experience in product liability lawsuits can help determine your best legal options.

It is crucial to find a lawyer with expertise in hair straightener cases who can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact Jessica Ramirez at D’Arcy Johnson Day, a premier litigation law firm, at 866-327-2952 or visit us online for a free legal consultation.

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