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  QUESTION: Surveys linking users of lead-containing hair products with dementia, 01 Aug 2004, Queensland Australia

I am enquiring about the legality of selling lead containing hair colour restoring products, even if they do have a warning about the lead content. My mother has been using Restoria for around thirty years and currently is in the early stages of dementia. I am wanting an initial assessment of her condition but we have to wait two months for a vacancy with the geriatrician. I am concerned that this hair colour restoration product may be the contributing factor to her dementia. Do you have any information you could link me to, any surveys of the effect on elderly people, my mother is in her late eighties.

many thanks

ANSWER: 04 Aug 2004

Dear Madam,

There are no surveys to my knowledge linking users of lead-containing hair products (eg Restoria, Grecian 2000 or Never Gray) with dementia but that is a long way from saying that no connection would be found if the surveys were done so perhaps you could make the suggestion to the Health Minister. I would certainly support such a study on the basis of just the warning that is required on such products. For example, in tiny writing at the end of the "warning" (although there is no heading saying "WARNING) on the "Never Gray" bottle it says: "Do not use on broken skin, wash hands thoroughly after use." To my mind these statements should be made under the heading "Directions" where the text is written nearly twice as large as the "warning". I think that the chances of people who are using this product having such perfect eyesight that they read unlabelled tiny warnings is small and thus the chances of the product being used on broken skin and remaining on hands and possibly being ingested (and being spread to taps which children might use etc), is quite high. Thus I would advise that any person using such a product can only know whether it is causing them to be lead poisoned by having a blood lead test. The GP can organise a blood lead test for your mother and in Queensland, a blood lead level above 15 µg/dL (15 micrograms per decilitre) (equivalent to 0.72 µmol/L micromoles per litre) is a notifiable disease and would be followed up by an investigation by the Health Department of the sources of lead in your mother's home.

As for the links between dementia and the blood lead level of study subjects, one of the lead poisoned adult clients of the Lead Advisory Service Australia, researched the subject and I've attached the information he sent us.

Please let me know your mother's blood lead level - I'm very interested.

Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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