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Hasson D. Barnes, LCC Hasson D. Barnes
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Chemical Hair Relaxers And The Cost To Black Women


She was a newlywed, and couldn’t wait for the day that she could announce to her groom and the world that she was pregnant. But for Kenya Appling, it was not to be. Instead of creating a new family, Appling underwent a hysterectomy to rid her body of the uterine cancer plaguing her. She had no known risk factors, and concluded that her cancer resulted from decades of using chemical hair straighteners.  And she is not alone in that conclusion.

Science Connects Chemicals to Cancer

Black women who frequently used chemical hair straightening services throughout  their lives are twice as likely to develop uterine cancer later in their lives as women who never use the chemicals, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That’s because phthalates and parabens are contained in the straightening chemicals, and they cause significant disruptions to the endocrine system which can lead to outcomes such as fibroids or cysts, or, in the worst cases, cancers. For many Black women the discovery of cancer comes during childbearing years when they’re told they cannot have children. For others, it is a post-menopausal shock. In some cases, it spreads to include breast cancer. And the repercussions of chemical straighteners does not end there. The connections between these products and cardiovascular conditions, obesity, Type 2 diabetes is becoming clearer. While the link between chemical straighteners and poor health outcomes is noted, the NIH has held back from naming the products as actual causal agents. Companies such as Revlon and L’oreal and are battling any claims of causality, asserting that lawsuits maintaining as much are without merit. But whether using these products results in cysts and fibroids or actual cancer, the results have been devastating for Black women across the country. In fact, the death rates for Black women in this country are double that of white women when it comes to uterine cancer.

Causality: Proving it is Tough 

What could prove that chemical straighteners lead to cancer? While a randomized trial would certainly clarify any questions linking the chemicals to uterine cancer, and other health impacts, the ethical constraints associated with running such a clinical study make it impossible. Instead, experts contend that stricter regulations around straightening products and greater alternatives for women who wish to straighten their hair must be made available. When products are associated with such menacing side effects, consumers must be made aware of the possible consequences, and engage in serious consideration as to whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Mental and Emotional Damage 

Any survivor can tell you fighting cancer is a gruesome battle. Suffering through chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and years of hormone treatments takes its toll on women, who, at the same time are also making sense of the news that they will never be able to bear children. Adding insult to injury, Black women who have chosen chemical straighteners have done so oftentimes due to societal pressure to conform to white standards of beauty that have permeated the media for generations. Their compliance with those expectations is what caused their physical problems to begin with. Many women risk health calamities still today as they continue to straighten their hair in order to keep their jobs or move up in a world that values straight hair, despite the serious health concerns.

After the Bad News 

Have you suffered serious health consequences after using chemical straighteners over a period of years? Would you like to pursue legal action in order to hold companies liable or the damage their products cause?  At The Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, our Baltimore personal injury lawyers feel the same way.  Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.


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