Jennifer Mitchell, a Missouri resident, has filed a lawsuit against L’Oréal and a slew of other companies, claiming that her uterine cancer was “directly and proximately” caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in their hair care products.
In addition to L’Oréal, Strength of Nature Global, Soft Sheen/Carson Inc., Dabur International Ltd., Dabur USA Inc. and NamasteLaboratories have also been named as defendants in the suit that alleges they were engaged in the research, development, manufacture, design, testing, sale and marketing of the products.
According to the suit, Mitchell was first exposed to EDCs and/or phthalate-based products around 2000, at around the age of 10, when she began using the defendants’ product and she used them until 2022, following the instructions. The suit claims there was never any indication on the products packaging or otherwise that normal use could and would cause her to develop uterine cancer.
Mitchell was diagnosed with uterine cancer on Aug. 10, 2018, at the age of 28 and underwent a full hysterectomy. The suit claims that, as a result of the defendants’ acts and/or omissions, Mitchell lost her ability to have children, suffered extreme pain and suffering and extreme emotional distress.
She is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, including, but not limited to, “pain, suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life and other non-economic damages in an amount to be determined at trial of this action.” She is also seeking economic damages in the form of medical expenses, out of pocket expenses, lost earnings, among others, as well as punitive damages.
A spokesman for L’Oréal said: “Our highest priority is the health, wellness and safety of all our consumers. We are confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit. L’Oréal upholds the highest standards of safety for all its products. 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.”
The suit follows the release of a study from the U.S. National Institute of Environment Health Safety, which found that women who used chemical hair straightening products were at higher risk for uterine cancer compared to women who did not report using these products.
Approximately 60 percent of the participants who reported using straighteners in the previous year identified as Black women, according to the study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Although, the study did not find that the relationship between straightener use and uterine cancer incidence was different by race, the adverse health effects may be greater for Black women due to higher prevalence of use, said the U.S. National Institute of Environment Health Safety.
At a news conference, Mitchell, who is Black, said: “As most young African American girls, chemical relaxers, chemical straighteners were introduced to us at a young age. Society has made it a norm to look a certain way, in order to feel a certain way. And I am the first voice of many voices to come that will stand up to these companies, and say, ‘No more.’”