A Black woman in Missouri has filed a massive lawsuit against L’Oréal and several other beauty product companies, alleging that her uterine cancer was “directly” caused by their hair-straightening products.
In her suit, 32-year-old Jenny Mitchell, claims she developed uterine cancer after “prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in defendants’ hair care products.”
Mitchell claims she was diagnosed with uterine cancer after using hair-straightening products
Mitchell began using chemical relaxers in third grade. She used hair straightening products from 2000 all the way up until March 2022. Sadly, in August 2018, Mitchell was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy in the months following.
“At that time, at the age of 28, my dreams of becoming a mother were gone,” Mitchell told CNN during a recent interview.
“As most young African American girls, chemical relaxers, and chemical straighteners were introduced to us at a young age,” the Missouri native continued.
“Society has made it a norm to look a certain way, in order to feel a certain way. And I am the first voice of many voices to come that will stand, stand up to these companies, and say, ‘No more.’”
Mitchell is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from L’Oréal, Namaste Laboratories LLC, Dabur International Ltd., and Godrej Consumer Products, the parent company of the black hair care brand, Just For Me.
She’s not alone in her fight for justice
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump will be representing Mitchell throughout the suit.
“Black women have long been the victims of dangerous products specifically marketed to them,” Crump said in a statement.
“Black hair has been and always will be beautiful, but Black women have been told they have to use these products to meet society’s standards. We will likely discover that Ms. Mitchell’s tragic case is one of countless cases in which companies aggressively misled black women to increase their profits.”
Mitchell isn’t alone in her fight for justice. This week, two other individual cases were filed in California and New York against L’Oréal and several other cosmetic companies alleging a connection between chemical hair straightening products and cancer diagnoses.
The legal disputes come just a week after an eye-opening study by the National Institutes of Health found that women who use chemical hair straightening products are at higher risk for uterine cancer than those who don’t.
“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.