Hair Products for Black Women Contain Mix of Toxic Chemicals

Interview with Jessica Helm, a research fellow at Silent Spring Institute, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

For the first time, research has been performed on endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in hair products primarily marketed to African-American women, who tend to buy more hair care products than women of other ethnicities. The study by the Silent Spring Institute was published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Research. The groundwork for the study was laid by Tamara James-Todd, an African American researcher from Harvard University. The Environmental Working Group also released a report analyzing the products based on ingredients listed on the labels.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are substances that interfere with the body’s hormones. The findings could help researchers understand why black women have higher exposures to hazardous chemicals than other groups and how these elevated exposures contribute to health disparities in the U.S. population overall.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Jessica Helm, the lead author on the study and postdoctoral research fellow at Silent Spring, about the specific chemicals identified, their health impacts and changes in the marketing of these products that might result from the spotlight on the hazards revealed.
For more information the Silent Spring Institute, visit

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