lead acetate in hair dyes... safe?

The EU is considering banning lead acetate from hair dyes; they’ve already banned some other chemicals found in other cosmetics that have been found to be a hazard to human health.

The FDA has “tested” lead acetate used in hair dyes and has declared it to be “safe”. What’s the Straight Dope on lead acetate in the real world?

By the looks of it, the FDA declared it safe to use only on certain parts of the body, namely the scalp. All other uses are not recommended. See here. From what this list says, lead acetate is known to be fairly nasty stuff in terms of human health.

Honestly, how do they come up with this stuff? We know lead is bad, acetate is bad, why would they use lead acetate? Isn’t there some safe “herbal” type substitute? Berries, tree bark, or whatnot?

Sure, there’s henna, and indigo and coffee and tea and wine. I got some awesome deep purples once mixing blueberry juice with henna. True, your palette is a little more limited and you can’t waltz into any ol’ Hair Cutz 4 Less place and get it, and it’s not all packaged neatly at the grocery store, but there are lots of great inexpensive and safe herbal hair dyes.

crummy link

Aëtius Amidenus worked back in the late 5th century, so the lead acetate treatment is at least that old. I suspect the first use of lead acetate as a hair dye dates from much earlier, but the internet is isn’t being much help on that.

Depends on what you mean by “safe.” Just because something comes from nature doesn’t mean there isn’t a downside. For example, Google the words “henna” and “safety” and see what comes up.

That’s a little misleading. I had looked into this previously, and what comes up is a whole lot of information about PPD as an undeclared additive in henna, most frequently the type used for tattoos, not hair dye. PPD is an ingredient in almost all standard, non-henna based hair dye available at stores and salons.

Now, I agree that these articles are pointing out an important risk of getting henna tattoos, especially from itinerants at street fairs. People have sickened and even died from this exposure.

But I don’t think you’ve given us a good example of natural plant substances actually having dangerous chemical properties. Those examples exist, of course, but I don’t think you’ve pointed out a good one. Just because the glue on some postage stamps has been adulterated with LSD doesn’t mean that the glue the postal service uses is hallucinogenic.

Then I guess I’m glad it’s not my job to do that. I was just pointing out that “natural” and “herbal” don’t necessarily mean “safe.”

I don’t think you did that, either. The information you pointed out (did your research consist of anything more than typing two words into Google?) is overwhelmingly about one particular chemical contaminant in a dried, ground up plant. If you have any info about the danger of the actual henna plant, contribute a meaningful link to the thread.

Well, at least the straw in your 'man is safe…

No, was I supposed to?

Sorry you didn’t find my link “meaningful.”

I did try to edit my previous response but apparently I took too long typing it. Here is my addendum:

QUOTE=Harriet the Spry](did your research consist of anything more than typing two words into Google?)

No, was I supposed to?

On further consideration, let me expound on that. As a Master Gardener I am well aware that many plants contain chemicals which are poisonous to some degree or other. I did want to make the point that just because something is natural or herbal does not mean it is necessarily safe - although of course it may be.

I decided to find a link that would have some relevance because people are always demanding links, not because that’s the only information I have. Apparently in this case even the link wasn’t good enough.

I am cautious about “natural” products and all things “herbal” because I think all too often people have abandoned established medicines in favor of herbal ones thinking that anything “natural” could not be harmful. A case in point is the use of cohosh by many women for estrogen replacement instead of conventional HRT. While I agree that Premarin, derived from the urine of pregnant mares which are kept in confinement and kept pregnant, is not savory, there are now various plant-based estrogen medications which have been approved by the FDA. The FDA is not my favorite agency either, but at least it’s something.

Herbal medicines, cosmetics, etc. are not regulated and the nature of herbs is that they vary wildly in their potency depending on the individual plant, time of day harvested, freshness, and many other factors. In short, there is no consistency. Also, anything that gives the effect you are seeking is going to have other effects as well, which must be taken into consideration. Thus we end up with a crowd of new-agers downing “herbal” and “natural” remedies which are not regulated in any way and without knowing what they are taking. They can easily find themselves in a worse situation than they are when they blindly accept conventional medicine. The sane path is probably somewhere in the middle, but always with tons of research and thought put into each decision.

So it seems I touched a nerve by pointing out there were some issues with henna, which seems odd to me. I hope I’ve been able to clarify my position - which, at the end of the day, is only MY position and doesn’t have to mean a damn thing to you or anyone else.

“Lead Acetate” used to be called “Sugar of Lead”, because it apparently has a sweet taste, and can easily be ingested by the uninformed. This is particularly nasty, since the lead accumulates in the body. I had no idea the stuff was used in hair dyes. I assume the manufacturers add something to make it taste bad (or the stuff it’s mixed with does that pretty much automatically), but you never know.

I’m sorry, where did you point out that there are safety issues with henna? You didn’t. You insinuated there were, and it was pointed out there weren’t. A Google search is not a cite, especially when the hits are talking about another substance entirely. Would you like a third chance to point us to an actual cite about safety issues with henna? (Or indigo, wine, coffee, tea or blueberry juice used topically?)

Your “point” was meaningless in this thread. No one ever claimed that all herbal substances are safe. I never would claim that, and I’ve made the same argument you have in other, appropriate, threads. (My usual response to the natural=healthy argument: “Oh, is that right? Would you like to try some nice infusion of hemlock?” My second choice is: “Sweetie, *syphilis *is natural!”)

But, barring contamination or allergy, I know of zero danger to henna, indigo, et al. used for hair coloring. Please, if you have other information, share it with us so we can properly warn people about it in the future.

ETA: and it DOES have quite a bit to do with me, personally, seeing as I was the one to suggest the items as safe alternatives to chemical dyes. Your statement questioned my integrity and accuracy, and I want this cleared up.

I posted a different opinion, another point of view. I can’t see why that should threaten your integrity. But rest assured I’ll butt out of this thread from now on so you can go on doing whatever it is you’re doing.

When you started posting unsupported and unresearched information in this thread that calls my area of expertise into question.

Fourth chance: where is a cite on the dangers of henna?

Why did you change your post?

I sure don’t, but this is the first time I’ve seen lead acetate (a.k.a. “sugar of lead”) mentioned since I read a book about explosives circa 1970 and learned that it’s an ingredient in the manufacture of lead azide, a percussion-sensitive explosive that can be used in percussion caps. It goes like this:

metallic sodium plus ammonia gas equals sodiamide, NaNH[sub]2[/sub], plus hydrogen
sodiamide plus laughing gas equals sodium azide, NaN[sub]3[/sub], plus water
sodium azide plus lead acetate equals lead azide, Pb(N[sub]3[/sub])[sub]2[/sub], plus sodium acetate. Lead azide is insoluble and precipitates out.

Don’t try this at home. Lead azide isn’t as unstable as nitrogen iodide (NI[sub]3[/sub]) but it’s not to be dicked around with.