Warning About Chemical Hair Relaxers and Cancer
Occasional use of chemical hair relaxers usually is not dangerous. But regular or heavy use is often hazardous. If a woman’s hair does not absorb all of the harsh chemicals present in the relaxer, they go to her scalp, are absorbed through her skin, and then alter the hormone balance in her body. In fact, research shows that “heavy” and “regular” chemical hair relaxer users have four times the cancer risk of women who do not use the products.
For decades, cosmetics companies have heavily marketed hair relaxers to black women and other women of color. Frequently, these advertising campaigns preyed upon lower-income women who society said needed to fit into a certain ethnocentric mold of beauty and professionalism.
Statistically, these women are also more likely to be overweight and have other cancer lifestyle risk factors. As a result, cosmetics companies routinely blame these other risk factors, as opposed to their chemical products, for cancer spikes in certain areas.
Legally, a defective product lawyer does not have to prove that a dangerous product, like a hazardous chemical hair relaxer, exclusively caused cancer or another illness. Instead, the dangerous products must have substantially caused the illness.
Many overweight smokers develop cancer, but in many cases, the use of a chemical hair relaxer can still increase the likelihood and risk factor. That is usually enough to prove liability and obtain compensation for damages.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma or ovarian cancer after regular and long-term use of a chemical hair relaxer, you may have a case. Contact The Yost Legal Group (1-800-YOST-LAW) today for a free consultation with a dedicated hair relaxer attorney.
What Cancers Are Related to Hair Relaxer Use?
Powerful chemicals like sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, sulfites, and bisulfates alter the chemical composition of a person’s hair and reshape it. Typically, as long as the person’s hair absorbs most of the chemicals, they will not have harmful effects. But these chemicals can alter other cell chemistry as well.
If used inappropriately, they could cause serious injury. As mentioned above, heavy and frequent use is inappropriate use. Also as mentioned above, cosmetics companies encouraged such inappropriate use.
Assume Laura uses a powerful moisturizer on her skin and hair. This appropriate use is not harmful. But if Laura puts this powerful moisturizer on her tongue, she could suffer serious injury.
In this way, chemical hair relaxers are similar to talcum powder. Occasional talcum powder use, even if the powder was tainted with asbestos, might not be dangerous. But Johnson & Johnson encouraged heavy and regular use. “A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away,” according to the classic jingle. Heavy use caused asbestos fibers in the talcum powder to migrate to the ovaries, causing ovarian cancer.
Like chemical hair relaxer cancer survivors, most talc/asbestos cancer survivors had few obvious risk factors, like a family history of cancer. Therefore, in both cases, doctors often do not do precautionary checks or detect a developed cancer until the disease has metastasized.
Are Hair Relaxers Harmful?
As outlined above, chemical hair relaxer overuse is harmful. Cosmetics companies have a legal duty to adequately warn customers about such potential harms. Failure to do so is legal negligence.
Adequate warnings must be in a language targeted customers can easily understand. However, cosmetic companies have made it a habit to word warnings in “legalese” and “medspeak,” specialized languages heavy with jargon and terminology familiar to professionals in the specific fields. This kind of communication is difficult for fluent and native English speakers to understand, let alone someone who is a learned English speaker.
Furthermore, adequate warnings must be proportional to the possible harm. Ovarian and other cancers are a lot worse than a “burning sensation,” “watery eyes,” and other relatively mild side effects listed on hair relaxer packaging. Frequently, companies bury serious side-effect warnings at the bottom of a long list of otherwise mild side effects. Legally, that is not adequate.
Finally, adequate warnings accurately express the risk. As mentioned, the chemicals in hair relaxers are safe if used properly. Therefore, the product instructions must tell customers not only how to use the product, but also how to use the product properly, which means how often to use the product and in a safe quantity.
However, that latter instruction is contrary to the company’s interests. Usually, cosmetics companies want people to cover their faces, legs, and other areas of the body in shaving cream, soak their hair with shampoo, relax their hair frequently, and otherwise use as much product as possible, so their customers have to purchase the products more frequently.
A breakdown in any area (linguistic, proportionality, or accuracy) is usually a breach of duty. If a breach of duty causes injury, the negligent actor is liable for damages. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses (medical bills) and noneconomic losses (pain and suffering).
Moreover, in most cases, money is the only language large companies speak. Therefore, to get their attention and convince them to alter the way they make, package, advertise, and sell products, juries often award significant punitive damages in mass tort cases.
Is There Really a Hair Relaxer Lawsuit?
From one perspective, there are many hair relaxer lawsuits. Hundreds of survivors have already come forward. From another perspective, there is “a” hair relaxer lawsuit. In February 2023, federal judicial officials consolidated all these actions in the Northern District of Illinois for pretrial purposes.
This procedure, which is called multi-district litigation, is basically a cross between individual legal actions and a class action lawsuit. Frequently, individual courts cannot handle mass tort claims on a piecemeal basis. However, these claims do not qualify as class actions under the complex federal rules of civil procedure.
Multi-district litigations put similar cases together during the pretrial motion and discovery phases. A single judge rules on pretrial motions and supervises discovery, ensuring consistent and predictable results. This judge also presides over a few test-the-water bellwether trials and supervises settlement negotiations.
Most mass tort claims settle out of court, especially after the bellwether trials conclude and the two sides know more about the strength of their claims and defenses. If a matter does not settle, it returns to its home jurisdiction for trial.
Settling a case out of court is not like raising the white flag of surrender. Instead, out-of-court settlements reduce costs, end cases earlier, and give survivors more control over the outcome. Additionally, they avoid the need for an emotional and uncertain courtroom showdown.
Accepting National Toxic Hair Relaxer Lawsuits on Behalf of Survivors
Hair relaxer overuse often causes serious injuries that could cause serious pain, anguish, and financial destabilization in the best-case scenario while the worst case could be fatal. To hold the multinational, billion-dollar cosmetic companies responsible for their wrongs, The Yost Legal Group is seeking victims of their chemical hair relaxers who have developed squamous cell carcinoma or ovarian cancer.
All consultations are free. All of our toxic hair relaxer attorneys are compassionate and experienced. And if we do not win you case, you will not pay a cent.
If you or a loved one has developed cancer after long-term and regular use of a toxic hair relaxer, contact The Yost Legal Group today (1-800-YOST-LAW).