Are hair relaxers linked to Fibroids – New Study on Fibroids Health?

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Hair companies do not print all the chemicals present in black hair products, if they did they’d probably go out of business. I realize there isn’t  a lot of advocacy on this issue which is also interesting as i would assume people would want to know more about what they put in their hair, and once they know its harmful, would want to spread the message across to others.

The media has made much play of a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology linking chemical hair straighteners used by many black women to the development of uterine fibroids.

The study’s research reveals black women who had used relaxers over a long period of time were at greater risk for fibroids.

The study’s authors state relaxers contain chemicals like sodium hydroxide, a chemical that can eat through the skin and, if inhaled, can ruin your lungs.

The study theorizes that as chemicals like phthalates get into abrasions and areas of irritation on the scalp, it may exercise some hormone like activity.

Dr. Williams said the study’s findings are startling, but research shows black women are genetically predisposed to fibroids.
While those behind the study believe relaxers could be a risk factor, Williams says diet is a factor, too.
What does not appear to have been reported is the fact that phthalate use is widespread and if women aren’t relaxing their hair they certainly are obtaining their phthalate doses from a wide range of products.
Hair relaxers are not the only products to use phthalates.  Their use in the cosmetic and beauty arena is widespread and they can be found in products diverse as:
…vinyl flooring, detergents, automotive plastics, soap, shampoo, deodorants, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish, plastic bags, food packaging, garden hoses, inflatable toys, blood-storage bags, and intravenous medical tubing… and the list goes on!
If a hair relaxer contains phthalates then there probably is a link to fibroids.  But hair relaxers alone are very unlikely to be the main cause due to the wide spread use of phthalates.  There are also other harmful chemicals used in the manufacture of hair relaxers which may also have a disrupting effect on our hormones.
And as the Environmental Working Group points out, the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products are not regulated. Indeed, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act gives no authority to the agency to approve cosmetic ingredients – except for specific coloring additives in certain hair dyes.
Put simply, the cosmetic and perfume industries are unregulated and can use potentially harmful chemicals in their products.

Whilst there is some research that demonstrates phthalates as endocrine disruptors much of the current research on the effects of phthalate exposure has been focused towards children and men’s health.

However women may be at higher risk for potential adverse health effects of phthalates due to increased cosmetic use. Diethyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate are especially ubiquitous in cosmetics and personal care products.

Did you know women who use makeup daily absorb, on average, 5 pounds of chemicals each year!
It has been well documented that endocrine disruptors such as phthalates can be additive, so even very small amounts can interact with other chemicals to have cumulative, adverse “cocktail effects”.

Medical Journal of Epidemiology

“Hair relaxers are used by millions of black women, possibly exposing them to various chemicals through scalp lesions and burns. In the Black Women’s Health Study, the authors assessed hair relaxer use in relation to uterine leiomyomata incidence. In 1997, participants reported on hair relaxer use (age at first use, frequency, duration, number of burns, and type of formulation). From 1997 to 2009, 23,580 premenopausal women were followed for incident uterine leiomyomata. Multivariable Cox regression was used to estimate incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals. During 199,991 person-years, 7,146 cases of uterine leiomyomata were reported as confirmed by ultrasound (n = 4,630) or surgery (n = 2,516). The incidence rate ratio comparing ever with never use of relaxers was 1.17 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06, 1.30). Positive trends were observed for frequency of use (Ptrend < 0.001), duration of use (Ptrend = 0.015), and number of burns (Ptrend < 0.001). Among long-term users (≥10 years), the incidence rate ratios for frequency of use categories 3–4, 5–6, and ≥7 versus 1–2 times/year were 1.04 (95% CI: 0.92, 1.19), 1.12 (95% CI: 0.99, 1.27), and 1.15 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.31), respectively (Ptrend = 0.002). Risk was unrelated to age at first use or type of formulation. These findings raise the hypothesis that hair relaxer use increases uterine leiomyomata risk”

Scientists followed more than 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women from 1997 to 2009 and found that the two- to three-times higher rate of fibroids among black women may be linked to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns resulting from relaxers.

Women who got their first menstrual period before the age of 10 were also more likely to have uterine fibroids, and early menstruation may result from hair products black girls are using, according to a separate study published in the Annals of Epidemiology last summer.

Three hundred African American, African Caribbean, Hispanic, and White women in New York City were studied. The women’s first menstrual period varied anywhere from age 8 to age 19, but African Americans, who were more likely to use straightening and relaxers hair oils, also reached menarche earlier than other racial/ethnic groups.

You can limit your exposure to phthalates and switch over to natural brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics by visiting The Environmental Working Group’s great safety guide to help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
If you do use chemical hair straighteners or relaxers you can also read the Environmental Working Group’s investigation into ‘Hair straightener makers and salons cover up dangers’.

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