A lot of products on the market that we have talked about on this program over the years have been known to cause cancers, endocrine problems, reproductive issues, but one thing you wouldn’t typically expect that might cause cancer would be a hair relaxer, but that is what we’re seeing. Farron Cousins fills in for Mike Papantonio and is joined by attorney Chelsie Green to explain what’s happening.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Farron Cousins: A lot of products on the market that we have talked about on this program over the years have been known to cause cancers and all sorts of issues. Endocrine problems, reproductive issues, but one thing you wouldn’t typically expect that might cause cancer would be a hair relaxer, but that is what we’re seeing. I’ve got attorney Chelsie Green with me here, Chelsie, this is an absolutely just kind of mind blowing case, really. Because what’s happening is, correct me if I’m wrong, but we’ve got these hair relaxers that are now being linked to cancer in women.
Chelsie Green: Correct. So think of a beauty product, a product that you’re applying to essentially help professionally, help you just to feel better about yourself, you’re applying to yourself in order to gain confidence, and ultimately that product is causing you extreme harm. Ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, in some cases endometrial cancer.
Farron Cousins: And this is a hair relaxer. It’s got chemicals in it, things that giant names I can’t even begin to try to pronounce here.
Chelsie Green: Exactly.
Farron Cousins: And so what’s happening, I guess, you put it on your scalp, and so the chemicals just seep into the skin?
Chelsie Green: Yes. A lot of people are unaware that what actually comes in the hair relaxer box, it’s multiple products. So it’s not one product that has this one set of chemicals that you’re applying to your hair. So the box comes with the base, and that’s the cream or the lotion that’s typically put on your hair. But in order to use the base, you have to put in the activator. And the activator has its own set of chemicals that you’ve now added to the base. And now you’re applying all of this to the most absorbent feature of skin that we have on our body, and that’s our scalp. The hair relaxer manufacturers try to tell us, protect your scalp. Don’t put the product on your scalp. Apply a petroleum jelly or some type of protected layer on your scalp before you apply the hair relaxer. But we know that these harsh chemicals are seeping through any layer of protection that we could potentially provide.
Farron Cousins: So, they’re telling you, or allegedly, they’re telling you protect your scalp, so obviously if they’re telling you to protect it, they’ve gotta know that there’s some kind of danger here.
Chelsie Green: Exactly. And ultimately, I believe that the hair relaxer manufacturers wanted to warn against the burns or lesions that the product causes. So they tried to say that’s what the scalp protectors were for. But we know when you mix that combination of chemicals to your scalp, ultimately the end product cannot be healthy for the consumers.
Farron Cousins: And so obviously this is a relatively new case. But from what I’ve seen, there’s close to 300 so far, absolutely documented cases, people involved in or I guess plaintiffs at this point 300, and that is expected to grow. Am I correct?
Chelsie Green: Yes. Actually, that number has recently just went up. In the litigation there was a deadline against Revlon, one of our manufacturers, or defendants in the hair relaxer litigation is coming out of bankruptcy. So they had a deadline for us to file all complaints against Revlon by September 14th. As of September 14th, over 7,000 cases are filed in the Northern District of Illinois.
Farron Cousins: Oh my goodness. Okay. So that, yeah, that’s a little more than 300.
Chelsie Green: Right. Three weeks, 7,000 cases.
Farron Cousins: Wow. Absolutely astonishing. And so obviously the hair relaxers, this is a product typically involved with women. But it is something that men have used as well. The cancers that we’re seeing, as you mentioned, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer. Have we seen anything in men so far? Or could this be almost like a female specific type of chemical reaction?
Chelsie Green: You know, I think because the studies are so new, the trials and the studies are so new in this particular arena that we will see some implications or effects to men as well. Men have used this product historically. There were relaxers just made for men specifically to use. And so I do believe that it has caused them some reproductive harm as well. But yes, you’re correct. Right now, this litigation, our experts, I’m heavily involved in the science workup on this litigation. They’re all ready to opine on uterine cancer and ovarian cancer.
Farron Cousins: So what kind of timetable, is this the kind of product, forgive me, I’m not big on hair products. Is this something that is used on a regular basis, a monthly basis? Is it a yearly treatment? How does it, how frequent do women use it?
Chelsie Green: Yes. So typically a hair relaxer is applied once every four to six weeks. Ultimately, some consumers or women will use that product a lot more, depending on your new growth, how quickly your hair grows. So if your hair grows faster than the average, then you could be using this product every two weeks.
Farron Cousins: Wow. So that’s a lot of exposure and these chemicals are obviously building up in the system at that point. Probably faster than the body could even hope to rid of them. And with the women who have come on as the plaintiffs here, just kind of a ballpark, how long have they been using the products before these developed?
Chelsie Green: Oh gosh, since adolescence.
Farron Cousins: Oh wow.
Chelsie Green: I mean, this is, culturally hair relaxers have been used from hundreds of, hundreds of years ago. Hair relaxer use began during slavery because that’s when all of the issues with black hair came out. When black women weren’t seen as beautiful or their hair wasn’t seen as professional. So this has been lineage, generations of use. And it’s typically starting at about age five into adulthood.
Farron Cousins: Wow. So we’re not just dealing with people who say, oh, well, I was 25 and decided, ah, I’m gonna change it up. So we actually have people that essentially grow up on it.
Chelsie Green: Exactly. This is not a typical product that you would pick up later on. Some do obviously, pick it up later, but this historically has been used since adolescents into adulthood, and it’s gonna be decades of use of hair relaxers.
Farron Cousins: And so what brands are we specifically kind of seeing here?
Chelsie Green: Yeah, so, we’re seeing L’Oreal has the largest, I believe, market share. And that’s typically gonna be your dark and lovely brands. We also have Motions, which is another hair relaxer. Revlon products obviously, they have a number of relaxers. There’s gonna be some smaller salon based hair relaxers also, where they’re not typically sold over the shelf. You go into your beauty shops and that’s where those design, affirm and typically band two products are used in the salons.
Farron Cousins: Wow. This again, is one of the cases that really just kind of astounds me because it’s not something that most people would think of. Almost like a lotion, you know? Okay. I just put my lotion on. There’s no problem with it. And it’s scary. I mean, talking about these, being with the law firm and all of the things you see and you’re like, oh my God, I’ve used this product that the firm is now going after. It’s very scary to be a consumer because we see so many problems. But listen, Chelsie, this is a wonderful story. We will get you back on as this progresses because again, I read this morning that there were 300 and now there’s 7,000. So we will keep up on this. And you’re doing a phenomenal job with it. Thank you so much.
Chelsie Green: Thank you for having me.