Ban Harmful Chemicals in Hair Dyes and Straighteners Linked to Higher Breast Cancer Risk

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My name is Natasha, and I am an activist for a women's health and environmental charity--but that’s not the only reason why I’ve made this petition. For more than 15 years, my mother sought medical attention for a lump on her right breast. However, her primary care physician neglected to send her to a specialist for further examinations of her lump, claiming that it was just calcification. She had to be her own advocate, found a new PCP, and insisted on further tests.

At age 60 my mother, Luisa, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment, following her double mastectomy surgery this past August. In 2007 her younger sister, Betty, died of breast cancer at age 43. Genetic testing found no hereditary explanation for my mother’s diagnosis, but rather that the disease was contracted through environmental factors. For decades, my mother often used permanent hair dye and chemical straighteners, due to a lack of awareness of the harmful ingredients they possessed. 

Hair products are made up of more than 5,000 chemicals, many of which contain carcinogens. Most of these harsh chemicals are rarely listed on the product labels, making it nearly impossible for consumers to know exactly how they can impact their health. Researchers suspect the link between hair dyes and chemical straighteners, and an increased association of breast cancer, can be traced back to the toxic ingredients in hair products that we inhale and absorb through our skin during use.

In December 2019, new research found that women who used permanent hair dye or chemical straighteners were at higher risk of developing breast cancer--and this disproportionately affects women of color like my mother, who consume more toxic hair products than anyone else. Use of hair dye is associated with about a 45 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer among Black women (compared to a 7% higher risk for white women). That is an unacceptable health risk.

One in eight U.S. women are diagnosed in their lifetime with breast cancer, and about 41,760 women in the United States are expected to die in 2019 from it. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Black women. Black women--who continue to be medically overlooked in a myriad of ways--are also diagnosed at a later stage and consequently die at a higher rate after diagnosis. I won’t let this happen to my mom without a fight. This is why I am urgently calling on the Food and Drug Administration and leading hair product manufacturers to act now and ban all toxic chemicals from hair dyes and straighteners. 

These alarmingly toxic chemicals are harmful and not needed in hair dye and chemical straighteners, and their life-threatening impacts are thoroughly preventable. Fortunately we are seeing more and more corporations embracing chemical-free options, and we would like to urge the FDA to take action to ensure that women’s lives are protected from unnecessary cancers. In order to save lives, it is therefore crucial that we urgently bring about change so that these harmful substances are removed from commonly used hair products. 

In the meantime, I appeal to women who use those products to avoid buying them. Boycott these companies who continue to put these carcinogenic products into the hands of women--in spite of the scientific evidence of their role in increasing breast cancer risk. These companies are killing women slowly.

Please sign and share so that together we can stop harmful chemicals from ever ending up in hair dyes and straighteners in the first place.

Thank you for fighting for my mom, and for women everywhere.

Natasha 

Link to NIH study: https://bit.ly/2LYckzt

Campaign hashtag: #ToxicFreeHair