FDA bans lead-based neurotoxin from consumer hair dyes

WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration today banned the use of toxic lead acetate in consumer hair dyes, a vital move to protect the public from hazardous chemicals.

Lead acetate is the active ingredient that slowly darkens gray hair when used every few days and can increase the level of lead in users’ bodies.

“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, one of a dozen public interest groups and individuals 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,” she said. “We’re grateful for the FDA’s effort to protect public health from this source of exposure to one of the most hazardous chemicals known.”

Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, said that although the decision is good news, it also shows the federal system for regulating cosmetics safety needs reform.

“The federal law designed to ensure that personal care products are safe has remained largely unchanged since 1938,” Faber said. “It’s good news the FDA has finally banned something as dangerous as lead from a product you put on your scalp. But it’s long past time for Congress to give the FDA the power and mandate to act quickly to protect us from dangers like lead acetate.”

Faber 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.

Legislation introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) would require companies to ensure products are safe before placing them on the market and finally give the FDA the tools for ensuring the safety of personal care products.

Collins has also introduced legislation to ban the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS from cosmetics.


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

Disqus Comments

Related News

Continue Reading

Best bang for your buck mascaras

It’s prom season, which means millions of teenagers across the U.S. will be getting done up for one of the most high school experiences. It’s a time for “promposals,” dancing and getting enough...