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Back of Head of Black Woman with Relaxed Hair

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Three more Black women have filed federal lawsuits against L’Oréal and other hair care companies alleging that their chemical hair straightening products caused them to develop uterine cancer and other severe health complications.

One of the plaintiffs, 55-year-old Rhonda Terrell, said she began using chemical hair straighteners at 8-year-old all the way up until her early-40s. After years of exposure, Terrell was diagnosed with an aggressive form of uterine cancer that has now spread to her liver and abdomen. She had to receive and hysterectomy and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

“If I had known all those years ago, if they had a warning on the box to say this could cause cancer, I wouldn’t have used it,” Terrell told NBC News. “And I want to hold them accountable because I have granddaughters.”

Bernadette Gordon is another plaintiff named in the massive suit. Gordon used chemical relaxers from 1983 to 2015. She believes her breast and uterine cancer developed after prolonged use of L’Oreal’s hair care products. Gordon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 at the age of 44. Her cancer became so aggressive that she had to receive a double mastectomy in March 2018. Three years later, doctors delivered more unsettling news about her health.

In 2021, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy along with six months of intense chemotherapy and radiation.

“It’s been devastating for me,” she said of the emotional experience.

 

Two more Plaintiffs said they developed uterine cancer from haircare straighteners

Thirty-nine-year-old Rugieyatu Bhonopha and Jenny Mitchell, a woman from Missouri whose lawsuit made headlines in October, are also seeking legal justice against the companies named in the suit. Both women said they also underwent hysterectomies after being diagnosed with uterine cancer.

The legal dispute comes just a month 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.

As MADAMENOIRE previously reported, nearly 60 percent of the participants who reported using straighteners in the study were self-identified Black women.

While rates of uterine cancer cases remain relatively low this year, the disease appears to be increasing among Black women. In the study, White argued that the uptick could be contributed to Black women’s frequent use of hair straighteners and other chemical products.

Many popular hair care products and straighteners contain chemicals that can act as endocrine disruptors or carcinogens, which have been closely linked to cancer. Dangerous chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and cyclosiloxanes can disrupt hormone functions, leading to cancer and other adverse health complications like reproductive and fertility issues.

In a statement, L’Oréal said it is “confident in the safety of our products and believes the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit.”

“L’Oréal upholds the highest standards of safety for all its products,” the company added.

“Our products are subject to a rigorous scientific evaluation of their safety by experts who also ensure that we follow strictly all regulations in every market in which we operate.”

 

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