(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, the Food and Drug Administration is considering a potential ban on certain chemical hair straighteners due to concerns the products are causing significant health risks.

This is very concerning, especially for Black women, as these products are often used to straighten curly or tightly coiled hair.

The FDA intends to propose a ban on hair straightening or hair smoothing products that contain specific ingredients. And that is formaldehyde or other formaldehyde-releasing chemicals like methylene glycol. Now, the agency states on its website that these chemicals are linked to short-term and long-term adverse health effects.

Formaldehyde is a strong irritant and can affect the upper respiratory tract, causing coughing and wheezing. It can also cause swelling or skin irritation and eye injuries.

When it comes to long-term health effects, they are much more serious. Hair-straightening chemical products have been linked to an increased risk of hormone-related cancers, including breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer. Unfortunately, roughly half of these types of products marketed to Black women include these chemicals compared to roughly 7% that are marketed to White women.

I have two studies to share. The first was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It included nearly 34,000 American women between the ages of 35 and 74. Researchers found that women who regularly used hair-straightening chemicals over the previous year had a 4% risk of developing uterine cancer by the age of 70. In contrast, women who hadn’t used these products in the last year had a lower risk, around 1.6%, of developing uterine cancer by the same age.

Now, the second study is newer and found very steep uterine cancer rates for older Black women. It was conducted by Boston University and involved nearly 45,000 participants in the University’s ‘Black Women’s Health Study’. And here’s what the researchers found – postmenopausal Black women who used chemical hair relaxers at least twice a year for more than five years had over a 50% higher risk of uterine cancer compared to those who rarely or never used these products. Furthermore, the study author said that Black women have higher rates of aggressive uterine cancer and are almost twice as likely to die. So this is very serious.

As for when the proposed ban might take effect, it won’t happen quickly. The FDA would first hear public input before deciding whether to proceed. The process typically takes a year or more.