A lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on December 15 alleges that chemical hair relaxing products were at fault for a Tennessee woman developing uterine cancer, developing uterine fibroids and ultimately needing a hysterectomy.
The lawsuit names the following chemical hair relaxing products:
- Dark & Lovely
- Olive Oil Girls
- Just For Me
- TCB Naturals
- Soft & Beautiful
- Organic Root Stimulator
The lawsuit names the following defendants:
- L’Oréal USA Products, Inc.
- L’Oréal USA, Inc.
- Soft Sheen/Carson, Inc.
- Soft Sheen-Carson, LLC
- Strength of Nature Global, LLC
- Strength of Nature, LLC
- Godrej Son Holdings, Inc.
- Godrej Consumer Products Ltd.
- Namaste Laboratories, LLC
- Dabur USA, Inc.
The plaintiff, according to the complaint, first started using chemical hair relaxing products in 1985, around the age of seven, and continued to use the products until she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and uterine fibroids in December 2021.
The complaint claims the plaintiff used the products by applying the products to her scalp, and/or by having workers at hair salons apply the products to her scalp, as instructed by the defendants, keeping the products in her hair for the time specified by the instructions.
The complaint alleges that the products’ manufacturers never indicated on the product packaging or in any other way that using the products as instructed like this would result in her developing uterine cancer and uterine fibroids.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants knew or should have known their chemical hair relaxing products were unsafe or hadn’t been properly tested, negligently and/or fraudulently misrepresented that the products were adequately tested and safe, and concealed knowledge of defects in the products with the intent of deceiving and defrauding the plaintiff and the public.
Hair Relaxing Products, Hair Straightening Products And Uterine Cancer
The use of chemical hair relaxing and hair straightening products has been linked by a recent study to more than double the risk of developing uterine cancer. While 1.64 percent of women in the study who never used chemical hair relaxing or hair straightening products ended up with uterine cancer by the age of 70, 4.05 percent of women in the study who frequently used these hair products ended up with uterine cancer by the age of 70.
A 2012 study also linked the use of chemical hair relaxing products with uterine fibroid risk.
According to the complaint, several recent studies have linked increased incidence of cancer and uterine fibroids with the use of chemical hair straighteners and hair relaxers. The complaint mentions numerous components of these products, including:
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
According to a recent study, evidence from animal and experimental studies shows that phthalates and parabens have potential for carcinogenicity, meaning they may cause cancer.
A 2021 study found that those diagnosed with endrometrial cancer had higher levels of phthalates in their urine and higher levels of parabens in their endometrial tissues than those who were not diagnosed with cancer.
A 2004 study detected parabens in human breast tumors.
A 2020 study linked exposure to BPA with uterine pathology and altered estrous cycle in rats, and the complaint notes that this adverse effect is associated with the development as well as progression of endometrial cancer.
A 2016 study associated uterine fibroids with BPA in the urine.
A 2017 study associated cyclosiloxanes with processes that can cause tumor growth.
The complaint notes that formaldehyde, metals and diethanolamine are all considered to be carcinogens.
The complaint defines endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as “chemicals, or chemical mixtures, that interfere with the normal activity of the endocrine system.”
According to the complaint, it is vital that our endocrine system functions precisely to maintain balance of hormones, as slight variations in hormones can cause health problems such as cancer, infertility, reproductive impairment, metabolic syndrome, immune disorders and cognitive deficits.
EDCs, according to the complaint, have been linked with:
- Abnormalities in reproductive organs
- Impaired sperm quality
- Altered immune function
- Altered nervous system function
- Metabolic issues
- Respiratory issues
- Cardiovascular problems
- Learning disabilities
- Neurological disabilities
- Growth disabilities
EDCs are found in hair products as perfumes and fragrances, according to the complaint.
Phthalates, according to the complaint, function as stabilizers and solvents in fragrances and perfumes, and were used in the hair relaxing products that the plaintiff used.
These chemicals, according to the complaint, are used for the improvement of fragrance retention and stability, and to help hair products penetrate and stick to hair and skin. They can also make colors and fragrances last longer, and improve the flexibility of hair.
Phthalates, according to a 2021 study, are EDCs, interfere with natural hormone degradation and production, and can cause harm to the health of humans.
The complaint notes a legal loophole allowing hair product manufacturers to avoid declaring phthalates as ingredients in their products: FDA regulations don’t require that individual fragrances or flavors, or specific ingredients in fragrances or flavors, be listed as ingredients in cosmetic products. This, according to the complaint, allows manufacturers to evade listing phthalates which are combined with fragrances.
The complaint specifically alleges that the phthalate Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) was used in the hair relaxing products used by the plaintiff.
DEHP is considered by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to be a possible human carcinogen.
Parabens, according to the complaint, are used in cosmetics as antibacterial agents and preservatives, and have anti-androgenic activity and estrogenic activity.
Parabens have been linked with premature puberty, uterine fibroid tumors and endocrine disruption.
Formaldehyde is commonly found in chemical hair straightening products, according to the complaint, and is classified as a carcinogen by the IARC as well as the National Toxicology Program.
Hair Relaxer Lawsuit Seeks To Recover Damages Based On Numerous Causes Of Action
The complaint seeks to recover damages for the plaintiff, including:
- Compensatory damages for future and past damages, such as pain and suffering, costs of healthcare, costs of medical monitoring, and costs and interest as provided by law
- Exemplary and/or punitive damages for the reckless, fraudulent, willful and wanton acts of the defendants, who showed a reckless indifference and complete disregard for the welfare and safety of the public, in an amount adequate to punish the defendants and deter others from behaving similarly
- Reasonable attorney’s fees
- The costs of court proceedings
- Any other relief deemed just and proper by the court
The complaint seeks to recover damages based on multiple causes of action, including:
The complaint alleges that the defendants failed to act with reasonable care in order to prevent harm when they manufactured and sold the chemical hair relaxing products which allegedly injured the plaintiff.
Those who injure others via negligence are liable for those injuries under 735 ICLS 5/2-1116.
The complaint alleges that the defendants were negligent by:
- Designing, creating, formulating and/or promoting chemical hair relaxing products without testing them thoroughly or adequately
- Not sufficiently testing their products to determine if they were safe to use despite having known or should known that the products were unfit for use and unsafe
- Selling, marketing and/or promoting the products without making sufficient and proper tests to discover if they were dangerous
- Failing to correctly and adequately warn the public that the chemical hair relaxing products were dangerous, specifically that their use could increase the risk of uterine cancer or uterine fibroids
- Failing to provide good enough instructions to anyone like the plaintiff or salon workers who may use or apply the products
- Failing to properly, sufficiently and adequately test the hair relaxing products
- Recommending the use of the products and advertising the products without adequate knowledge of the dangerous propensities of the products
- Representing that the hair relaxing products were safe when they were not
- Representing that the products’ cosmetic benefits outweighed their risks
- Designing the hair relaxing products in a way that made them dangerous
- Concealing information that their products were dangerous or unsafe
- Misrepresenting and/or concealing information regarding the severity of dangers and risks of the products
- Failing to utilize due care in designing hair relaxing products to avoid risks to users
- Failing to provide accurate and/or proper warnings with the products regarding possible adverse side effects
- Failing to warn about the duration and severity of side effects associated with the products
- Failing to adequately test the safety of the products, particularly their tendency to cause uterine fibroids and uterine cancer
- Failing to warn users that they need more regular, more comprehensive medical monitoring than the average person
Strict Products Liability – Failure To Warn And Defective Design
The complaint argues that the defendants are strictly liable for damages to the plaintiff because their chemical hair relaxing products contain failure to warn and design defects.
Hammond v N. Am. Asbestos Corp. established that a company that sells an unreasonably dangerous product without warning about any dangers associated with the use of the product is strictly liable for any injuries that the product causes.
Riordan v. International Armament Corp. established that the manufacturers of products which are unreasonably dangerous, by design, beyond the danger expected by an ordinary consumer are strictly liable for any injuries caused by the products.
The complaint argues that the defendants’ chemical hair relaxing products, even when manufactured properly and used as instructed by the manufacturers, were unreasonably and inherently dangerous, defective and unsafe.
The complaint argues the products weren’t fit for chemically relaxing and/or straightening hair, and failed to meet ordinary consumers’ reasonable expectations due to being unsafe.
The hair relaxing products, according to the complaint, were defective by design because their cosmetic benefits did not outweigh the foreseeable risks of the products.
The products were more dangerous than would be expected by ordinary consumers, according to the complaint.
The defendants, according to the complaint, knew or should have known that their chemical hair relaxing products were substantially likely to cause harm in the form of uterine fibroids and uterine cancer, yet failed to warn the plaintiff or the public about this risk.
The complaint alleges that the defendants possessed a safer, feasible design alternative for the hair relaxing products, a design which didn’t contain EDCs or formaldehyde.
Breach Of Express And Implied Warranties
According to the complaint, the defendants impliedly and expressly warranted that their chemical hair relaxing products were safe to use, when, in fact, they were not safe to use because their use could increase one’s risk of uterine cancer and uterine fibroids.
According to 810 ILCS 5/2-313, a seller creates an express warranty when they make an affirmation of fact or a promise to buyers of their products.
According to 810 ILCS 5/2-314, a seller creates an implied warranty that the products they sell are merchantable when they sell the products. For a product to be merchantable, it needs to be fit for the ordinary purpose it is sold and used for.
Fraudulent Concealment And Fraudulent Misrepresentation
The complaint argues that the defendants, before 1985, knew or should have known their chemical hair relaxing products were unsafe because they could cause uterine fibroids and uterine cancer.
Despite this, the complaint alleges that the defendants falsely represented that their products were safe, and actively concealed their products’ links with uterine fibroids and uterine cancer.
The complaint argues that the defendants had a duty to accurately and honestly represent the safety of their products to the plaintiff and the public.
The complaint argues that the defendants negligently failed to accurately and honestly represent the safety of their chemical hair straightening products by making representations that their products were safe, representations they knew or should have known were false.