Federal regulators have issued a final ban on the use of lead acetate in hair dye products, as part of a continuing effort to protect consumers from the risks of lead exposure.
In a press release issued October 30, the FDA indicates that the lead acetate hair dye ban amends a 40 year old rule that allowed manufacturers to use the toxic chemical in hair dyes.
Lead acetate is already banned in the European Union and Canada. The final rule repeals the only regulation on the books allowing hair dye manufacturers to use the lead derivative chemical. It is often used in progressive hair dyes, which are applied multiple times to achieve the desired color.
The use of lead acetate, a color additive, was originally approved in 1980. All such color additives must be shown to be safe before gaining approval by the agency. However, the FDA press release indicates the study used to allow use of the chemical in 1980 had “deficiencies” estimating exposure limits.
In February 2017, 12 environmental and consumer watchdog groups filed a petition with the FDA, calling for the removal of the chemical based on safety reasons. The final rule change is in response to that petition.
“Today’s action is part of our commitment to protect Americans by reducing exposure to toxic elements and builds upon federal efforts to reduce exposure to lead,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the press release. “In the nearly 40 years since lead acetate was initially approved as a color additive, our understanding of the hazards of lead exposure has evolved significantly. We now know that the approved use of lead acetate in adult hair dyes no longer meets our safety standard.”
Evidence submitted with the petition indicated lead acetate is no longer considered safe to humans, which was first approved based on questionable evidence.
While lead exposure has been linked to heart disease in adults, elevated blood lead levels are an indicator that children may be at risk for side effects of lead poisoning, which can lead to serious nervous system injury, brain damage, seizures, growth or mental disability, as well as other severe health problems throughout the rest of their childhood and life.
Additionally, it is linked to reduced fertility, organ system toxicity, cancer, and neurotoxicity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned there is no safe level of lead exposure for children.
The CDC estimates that 535,000 children ages 1-5, or about 2.6% of such children in the U.S., have levels of lead in their blood that place them at risk for adverse health effects. To come up with that number, the CDC analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the years 1999 to 2002, and 2007 through 2010.
The majority of those children are poor and live in older urban areas, mainly in the inner city. Most are minorities, meaning such exposures add to numerous problems already plaguing inner city black and Latino youths, such as poverty, high crime and poor schools.
Some companies have already begun to reformulate products and use other chemicals besides lead acetate.