FDA Asked to Investigate if Hair Straighteners Pose a Public Health Threat

D.T. Carson

      Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congresswoman Shontel Brown (OH-11) are urging the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate whether or not chemical hair straightening products contain carcinogens that pose a public health threat. As Black women use the products at a higher rate to relax their hair, they would be at a higher risk for any negative health consequences.

“We write to request the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conduct a thorough and transparent investigation to determine whether publicly available chemical hair straightening products contain carcinogens that lead to a higher risk of uterine cancer,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As a result of anti-Black hair sentiment, Black women have been unfairly subjected to scrutiny and forced to navigate the extreme politicization of hair. Manufacturers of chemical straighteners have gained enormous profits, but recent findings unveil potentially significant negative health consequences associated with these products.”

      Last year, the National Institutes of Health published a study titled, “Hair Straightening Chemicals Associated With Higher Uterine Cancer Risk”. Harmful chemicals have also been found in many products advertised to Black women, contributing to national racial health disparities.

“The increased risk disproportionately impacts Black women and contributes to national racial health disparities. The FDA has a mandate to review the latest research and reevaluate the safety of these products,” the lawmakers continued. “Consumers need to be reassured that the cosmetic products they use do not threaten their health.”

Pressley—who suffers with alopecia— has been steadfast in her advocacy for Black women’s health, ending race-based hair discrimination, and introducing policies that affirm the right of Black women to show up in the world as their full, authentic selves.

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