Lead acetate is the ingredient that slowly darkens gray hair when used every few days and can increase the level of lead in users’ bodies. Since it gradually darkens gray hair, it’s sometimes used by men to darken their beards.
“A ban on lead acetate in off-the-shelf hair dyes is long overdue,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group, a public interest group, one of the organizations and that petitioned the FDA for the ban.
“There is no safe level of lead exposure, which has been linked to developmental issues, reduced fertility, organ system toxicity, cancer, and other serious health problems,” Benesh said.
The EWG is grateful for the FDA’s effort to protect public health from one of the most hazardous chemicals known, she said.
However, Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, said the decision, while good news, also shows the federal system for regulating cosmetics needs reform.
“The federal law designed to ensure that personal care products are safe has remained largely unchanged since 1938,” Faber said.
It’s long past time for Congress to give the FDA the power and mandate to act quickly to protect consumers from dangers such as lead acetate, he said
He urged the FDA to act quickly to grant EWG’s petition to ban the sale of formaldehyde from hair-straightening products.
The cosmetics industry is a $60 billion-a-year business, and no other products are so widely used by American consumers with such few safeguards, Faber said.
On Jan. 6, 2022, the final rule on banning the use of toxic lead acetate in consumer hair dyes will be effective.