L’Oréal is being sued by four Black women who claim its relaxer products caused them to develop uterine cancer and other serious health issues.
According to NBC News, Rhonda Terrell, 55, underwent a hysterectomy and chemotherapy after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of uterine cancer that spread to her abdomen and liver. Bernadette Gordon, 49, underwent a hysterectomy and double mastectomy, along with months of chemotherapy, after she was diagnosed with uterine and breast cancer.
In addition, both Rugieyatu Bhonopha, 39, and Jenny Mitchell, 32, also underwent hysterectomies after being diagnosed with uterine cancer.
All of the women have claimed to use the company’s hair straightening products throughout the years.
Gorden said she used the product from 1983-2015, and Terrell admitted to using the product from age 8 to her early 40s.
“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 explained. “And I want to hold them accountable because I have granddaughters.”
Bhonopha told NBC, “It’s a hard thing to have to come to the realization that you’re dealing with fibroids, pregnancy loss.” She said, “And you had no inkling that these products were dangerous. You didn’t know that any of these harmful products were in it. Obviously, you wouldn’t have used them if you knew.”
According to a study published last month by the National Institutes of Health, women who use hair-straightening chemicals are twice as likely to develop uterine cancer as women who do not.
Dr. Che-Jung Chang has said that Black women are at risk of having more health problems than their counterparts.
He said, “Because Black women use hair straightening or relaxer products more frequently and tend to initiate use at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities, these findings may be even more relevant for them.”
According to NBC, all the women in the lawsuit said they hadn’t realized chemical hair straighteners increased their cancer risk until the study was published. They also claimed the packaging didn’t warn of any cancer risks.
L’Oréal said in a statement that 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 said. “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.”