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A California woman was among the first women to sue cosmetics giant L’Oréal and other hair straightening manufacturers, claiming their products were responsible for her reproductive health issues. 

Rugieyatu Bhonopha filed her lawsuit in California federal court just days after the release of a U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) study in October, which showed that women who frequently used hair straightening products were twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than non-users. Research has also shown that long-term use of hair relaxers can lead to other serious reproductive issues including endometrial cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, endometriosis and more.

Why Are Hair Straightening Manufacturers Being Sued?

Our client, Rugieyatu Bhonopha, began using hair relaxer products around 1996, at or around the age of 13. She used the products as instructed from around 1996 until 2008. There was never any indication, on the products packaging or otherwise, that this normal use could and would cause her to develop fibroids. Bhonopha was diagnosed with 16 fibroids in October 2019 at the age of 35 and underwent a myomectomy. In April 2022, she had a miscarriage and soon after was diagnosed with four more fibroids.

Bhonopha’s lawsuit claims that her fibroids were directly and proximately caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in the Defendants’ hair care products.

In addition to uterine fibroids these compound chemicals can cause other devastating conditions like uterine, endometrial and breast cancers, endometriosis, and preterm deliveries. 

Bhonopha claims that L’Oréal purposely marketed its hair relaxers to Black women and girls despite knowing since at least 2015 of their potentially dangerous ingredients.

Do Hair Straightening Products Cause Cancer?

The hair straightening study released in October 2022 demonstrated a strong link between the frequent usage of chemical hair relaxers and uterine cancer and other health issues. The study included 33,947 U.S. women aged 35-47 that participated in the “Sister Study,” which looked for risk factors for breast cancer and other health problems. Three hundred seventy-eight were diagnosed with uterine cancer during a nearly 11-year period. 

The scientists did not ask participants about the brands or ingredients of their hair relaxers. But they found that several common straightener chemicals could increase uterine cancer risk. They theorized that relaxers could be more harmful than other beauty products because they are applied on the scalp and absorbed more quickly through accidental burns.

The study concluded that the risk of developing uterine cancer by age 70 is around 4 percent in women who used hair relaxers at least four times in one year and just 1.6 percent in women who hadn’t used them. It also noted that the link between the products and the cancer was most pronounced for Black women, who made up just 7.4 percent of the overall participants but almost 60 percent of those who reported using straighteners.

Uterine cancer is the most common type of gynecological cancer in the country, with rates among Black women rising especially fast.

Hair Relaxer Lawsuits Consolidated Into MDL

There have been so many hair relaxer lawsuits filed since the study’s release that they have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL). This is often done to streamline the litigation process. They will be tried in the Northern District of Illinois by Judge Mary Rowland. 

Larry Taylor, Jr., managing partner at the Cochran Firm Texas, was among the first personal injury attorneys to file claims against hair product manufacturers and was named to the Hair Litigation MDL’s Plantiff’s Executive Committee. He is representing Bhonopha is her pursuit of justice.

Over the last few weeks, new hair relaxer claims have been added to the MDL, with hundreds or thousands more expected in the coming months.

How Does Revlon’s Bankruptcy Affect Hair Product Lawsuits?

Lawsuits against L’Oreal and other hair relaxer manufacturers have been steadily pouring in with no end in sight. Cosmetics giant Revlon was not officially named in lawsuits because the company filed for bankruptcy before the release of the study and the start of any hair relaxer litigation.

Revlon filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last June after plummeting sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, growing competition and supply chain issues forcing them into heavy debt. Due to their bankruptcy proceedings, the original deadline to file suit against Revlon was October 24, 2022 – just one week after the NHI’s study was released.

However, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David S. Jones extended that deadline to April 11, allowing consumers with hair relaxer claims against Revlon more time to join the litigation as part of the bankruptcy restructuring plan. Revlon has now emerged from bankruptcy after cutting more than $2.7 billion in debt and handing control of the beauty products company to its lenders.

Have You Developed Cancer or Other Health Issues After Using Hair Straighteners?

If you have been diagnosed with uterine cancer or other gynecological conditions after using chemical hair relaxers, you may be able to join in the fight against beauty companies who knowingly use dangerous chemicals in their products. 

The current litigation against hair straightener manufacturers isn’t the first to focus on hair care products. In 2021, Pantene’s dry shampoo was recalled by Proctor & Gamble for containing dangerous levels of the carcinogen benzene. In 2018, consumers sued Monat, a multi-level marketing beauty company, over hair care products with allegedly toxic chemicals that caused hair loss and balding.

An experienced personal injury attorney with a background in product liability can help you win the battle against a large manufacturer with its own powerful insurance and legal team. The Cochran Firm Texas can help women injured by chemical hair relaxers win compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. For more information about hair litigation legal options, contact us through our online contact form, chat with us 24/7 or call 1-866-868-5291 for a free consultation. 

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