Hair care practices have been an integral part of women’s routines for centuries, with the use of hair relaxers becoming increasingly common among women of color. However, recent research and ensuing lawsuits have raised concerns about potential health risks associated with these products. In particular, links have been made between hair relaxer use and an increased risk of uterine fibroids and uterine cancer, leading to the necessity of hysterectomies.
In this article, we delve into the history of hair relaxers, explain recent studies about their potential health effects, explore the correlation between hair relaxers and hysterectomies, and discuss the various hair relaxer hysterectomy lawsuits and settlements. We’ll also outline what you can do if you believe you’ve been affected by these products.
Table of Contents
- History of Hair Relaxers
- Hair Relaxers and Hysterectomy
- Overview of Hair Relaxer Hysterectomy Lawsuits
- Hair Relaxer Hysterectomy Settlements
- The Science Behind Hair Relaxers
- Recent Studies on Hair Relaxer Usage and Its Link to Uterine Fibroids and Cancer
- Understanding Uterine Fibroids and Uterine Cancer
- What to Do If You’ve Been Affected
History of Hair Relaxers
Hair relaxers, initially developed in the early 20th century, have their roots in African-American communities. Designed to straighten and tame curly, coiled, or kinky hair, these products offered an alternative to traditional hair-straightening methods that were often time-consuming or damaging to the hair. The popularity of hair relaxers surged in the mid-20th century and became a significant part of the hair care market.
Hair Relaxers and Hysterectomy
Given the correlation found between hair relaxer use and an increased risk of uterine fibroids and cancer, a potential link can be drawn to the need for a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure, often with significant physical and emotional effects. The loss of fertility following a hysterectomy can be particularly distressing for women who wanted to have children. In addition, a hysterectomy can lead to early menopause, which carries its own set of health risks and symptoms. Therefore, the idea that the use of a common hair product could lead to the necessity of such a serious procedure is alarming.
Overview of Hair Relaxer Hysterectomy Lawsuits
Several lawsuits have been filed by women who claim that they needed a hysterectomy due to uterine fibroids or cancer caused by using hair relaxers. These lawsuits allege that the companies manufacturing these hair relaxers failed to adequately warn consumers about these potential health risks.
A significant update in the litigation process was seen on May 23, 2023, when a Master Complaint was filed in federal court. A Master Complaint outlines the common allegations raised in all individual lawsuits, consolidating the litigation process by amalgamating all common allegations and evidence into one document. This serves as a crucial tool for plaintiffs’ lawyers, preventing the need to replicate the complaint with each filing, and allows defendants to pull out the facts of specific cases.
On March 15, 2023, Judge Rowland took the first step towards enabling all future hair relaxer lawsuits to be directly filed in the class action MDL. This process will make it easier for new hair relaxer lawsuits to be initiated directly in the MDL using a short form complaint.
Hair Relaxer Hysterectomy Settlements
Various settlements have been reached in hair relaxer hysterectomy lawsuits. To gauge possible settlement payouts for future lawsuits, lawyers often refer to previous settlements and jury payouts for similar injuries. Several examples of such verdicts and settlements include:
- Brown v Simmons (New York 2022): $1,330,000 was awarded to the plaintiff who claimed that her OB/GYN negligently failed to treat her uterine fibroids condition by recommending myomectomy surgery early on. Consequently, she had to undergo an unnecessary hysterectomy at age 32.
- Hadley v Mercy Clinic (Oklahoma 2021): A jury awarded $7,669,636 to the plaintiff who was forced to undergo an unnecessary hysterectomy due to the defendant’s negligent failure to timely diagnose cervical cancer, resulting in a 2-year delay in treatment.
- Kline v. Jafarina (Texas 2006): The plaintiff received $287,500 after alleging that the defendant OBGYN negligently performed a hysterectomy without her consent because the consent forms for a laparoscopy and possible laparotomy did not mention a hysterectomy.
These settlements suggest that substantial damages can be awarded in cases where negligence leads to unnecessary hysterectomies.
The Science Behind Hair Relaxers
Hair relaxers are typically composed of a strong alkali, such as lye (sodium hydroxide) or no-lye (potassium, lithium, or guanidine hydroxide), which can break down the hair’s natural protein structure and allow it to be permanently reshaped. Unfortunately, the same strength that makes these relaxers effective can also make them potentially harmful. When misused or used excessively, hair relaxers can cause hair loss, scalp burns, and other skin irritations. More alarmingly, recent research has pointed towards a more serious internal health risk – the potential for these products to increase the likelihood of uterine fibroids and cancer.
Recent Studies on Hair Relaxer Usage and Its Link to Uterine Fibroids and Cancer
Several studies have focused on the potential health implications of hair relaxers. For instance, the findings from a study on chemical hair relaxers published in October 2022 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Journal of the National Cancer Institute were very significant. The study found that women reporting using hair-relaxing products were almost twice as likely to develop uterine cancer. The women who reported using hair relaxers more than four times per year displayed a 150% increase in the risk of uterine cancer.
Understanding Uterine Fibroids and Uterine Cancer
Uterine fibroids, or leiomyomas, are benign tumors that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. While they are usually non-cancerous, they can grow and cause a range of symptoms, including heavy or prolonged menstrual periods, pelvic pain or pressure, frequent urination, and in some cases, fertility problems. In severe cases, a hysterectomy, or the surgical removal of the uterus, may be necessary to alleviate symptoms.
Uterine cancer, on the other hand, is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the uterus. It is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs in the United States. If detected early, uterine cancer can often be cured. However, if the cancer has advanced or come back, a hysterectomy may be required as part of the treatment.
What to Do If You’ve Been Affected
If you believe you’ve been affected by hair relaxers, you should first seek medical advice. If your health has been impacted, you may also want to consider seeking legal recourse. Lawsuits can offer a means to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. In addition, they can help hold companies accountable for failing to adequately warn consumers about the potential risks of their products.
The evolving research and litigation surrounding hair relaxers illustrate the potential health risks associated with these products. Women who have used hair relaxers and subsequently needed a hysterectomy due to uterine fibroids or cancer may have a right to seek compensation through a lawsuit. If you believe you’ve been affected, we offer free consultations to discuss your legal options. It is essential that consumers are aware of the potential risks associated with hair relaxers, and that companies are held accountable for the safety of their products.