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Consumer Safety

Goodbye to lead in hair dyes

by Britt E. Erickson
October 30, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 44

09644-polcon5-grayhair.jpg
Credit: Shutterstock
FDA grants petition, putting an end to lead acetate in hair dyes sold in the U.S.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has banned the use of lead acetate as a color additive in hair dyes sold in the U.S., according to a final rule published on Oct. 30. The action comes in response to a 2017 petition, filed by public health groups claiming that lead acetate is neurotoxic and carcinogenic.

FDA agreed with the petitioners, stating, “There is no longer a reasonable certainty of no harm from the use of this color additive.”

Many manufacturers have already replaced lead acetate with bismuth citrate in hair dyes applied over time to gradually color hair. But a few products intended to darken gray hair in men still contain lead acetate. FDA will begin enforcing the ban in one year to give companies time to reformulate their products.

“FDA’s decision is an important step to protecting people from a continued source of exposure to lead that is a more significant route than the agency originally thought over three decades ago,” Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement. EDF is one of the groups that petitioned FDA.

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