Hair'em Scare'em

Various News Services

Grecian Formula gradually removes the gray. But does it leave behind a health threat?

A new study published in last week's Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association claims that some hair dyes, including Grecian Formula and Lady Grecian Formula, may be dangerous to children after adults dye their hair and then handle a child or prepare food.

Grecian Formula and some other hair dyes are made with lead acetate. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of lead acetate because tests show the lead is unlikley to be absorbed through skin.

But Howard Mielke, a researcher at Xavier University of Louisiana, claims that the lead in the hair dyes remains on the user's hands even after washing. In his words

The user becomes a living purveyor of lead contamination.


Mielke tested his theory out on himself and his laboratory assistant. WHAT A SAMPLE SIZE! TWO WHOLE PEOPLE!

Mielke and his assistant tested five hair dyes and found that after using the hair dyes and washing their hands, they had between 26 and 79 micrograms of lead on each hand. Mielke points out that this amount of lead is four to ten times more lead than the government allows in household paint! (I hope he's not suggesting that people color their hair with Duron or Glidden paint!)

But Mielke didn't do any blood tests to see whether the lead was absorbed through the skin or whether the lead was readily transferable to children or food. If the lead doesn't come off with soap and water, how easily could it be transferred to children and food?

And Mielke avoids the most important question: has any one ever been lead-poisoned by Grecian Formula?

This "hair care scare" is a classic junk science ploy. First, you find a substance that people tend to get alarmed about (e.g., lead) in an everyday consumer product (e.g., hair dye). Then, dream up some wildly implausible scenario in which normal use causes some sort of harm — preferably involving children (e.g., mom uses hair dye and then makes peanut butter-and-lead sandwich for junior).

Talk about getting lead down the garden path!

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Copyright © 1997 Steven J. Milloy. All rights reserved. Site developed and hosted by WestLake Solutions, Inc.
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