Lead(II) acetate (Pb(CH3COO)2), also known as lead acetate, lead diacetate, plumbous acetate, sugar of lead, lead sugar, salt of Saturn, or Goulard's powder, is a white crystalline chemical compound with a sweet taste. It is made by treating lead(II) oxide with acetic acid. Like other lead compounds, it is toxic. Lead acetate is soluble in water and glycerin. With water it forms the trihydrate, Pb(CH3COO)2·3H2O, a colourless or white efflorescent monoclinic crystalline substance.
|Systematic IUPAC name
Plumbous acetate, Salt of Saturn, Sugar of Lead, Lead diacetate
3D model (JSmol)
|Molar mass||325.29 g/mol (anhydrous) |
|Appearance||White powder or colourless, efflorescent crystals|
|Density||3.25 g/cm3 (20 °C, anhydrous)|
2.55 g/cm3 (trihydrate)
1.69 g/cm3 (decahydrate)
|Melting point|| 280 °C (536 °F; 553 K) (anhydrous)|
75 °C (167 °F; 348 K)
(trihydrate) decomposes at ≥ 200 °C
22 °C (72 °F; 295 K)
19.8 g/100 mL (0 °C)
44.31 g/100 mL (20 °C)
69.5 g/100 mL (30 °C)
218.3 g/100 mL (50 °C)
|Solubility||Anhydrous and trihydrate are soluble in alcohol, glycerol|
|Solubility in methanol||Anhydrous:|
102.75 g/100 g (66.1 °C)
74.75 g/100 g (15 °C)
214.95 g/100 g (66.1 °C)
|Solubility in glycerol||Anhydrous:|
20 g/100 g (15 °C)
143 g/100 g (20 °C)
Refractive index (nD)
|Monoclinic (anhydrous, trihydrate) |
Std enthalpy of
|−960.9 kJ/mol (anhydrous)|
−1848.6 kJ/mol (trihydrate)
|Main hazards||Neurotoxic, probable human carcinogen|
|GHS Signal word||Danger|
|H360, H373, H410|
|P201, P273, P308+313, P501|
|NFPA 704 (fire diamond)|
|Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):|
LD50 (median dose)
|400 mg/kg (mice, oral)|
LCLo (lowest published)
|300 mg/kg (dog, oral)|
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
|what is ?)(|
The substance is used as a reagent to make other lead compounds and as a fixative for some dyes. In low concentrations, it is the principal active ingredient in progressive types of hair colouring dyes. Lead(II) acetate is also used as a mordant in textile printing and dyeing, and as a drier in paints and varnishes. It was historically used as a sweetener and for cosmetics.
Pb(s) + H2O2(aq) + 2 H+(aq) → Pb2+(aq) + 2 H2O(l)
Pb2+(aq) + 2 CH3COO−(aq) → Pb(CH3COO)2(aq)
Cu(CH3COO)2 + Pb → Cu + Pb(CH3COO)2
Like other lead(II) salts, lead(II) acetate has a sweet taste, which led to its historical use as a sugar substitute. The ancient Romans, who had few sweeteners besides honey, would boil must (grape juice) in lead pots to produce a reduced sugar syrup called defrutum, concentrated again into sapa. This syrup was used to sweeten wine and to sweeten and preserve fruit. It is possible that lead(II) acetate or other lead compounds leaching into the syrup might have caused lead poisoning in those who consumed it. Lead acetate is no longer used in the production of sweeteners because of its recognized toxicity. Modern chemistry can easily detect it, which has almost completely stopped the illegal use that continued decades after legal use as a sweetener was banned.
The earliest confirmed poisoning by lead acetate was that of Pope Clement II who died in October 1047. A toxicological examination of his remains conducted in the mid-20th century confirmed centuries-old rumors that he had been poisoned with lead sugar. It is not clear if he was assassinated.
In 1787 painter Albert Christoph Dies swallowed, by accident, approximately 3/ oz (20 g) of lead acetate. His recovery from this poison was slow and incomplete. He lived with illnesses until his death in 1822.
Although the use of lead(II) acetate as a sweetener was already illegal at that time, composer Ludwig van Beethoven may have died of lead poisoning caused by wines adulterated with lead acetate (see also Beethoven's liver).
It is still used in the USA in men's hair colouring products like Grecian Formula. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers this use safe because human testing showed lead did not enter the bloodstream and was not shown to be absorbed. It was, however, banned in cosmetics by Health Canada in 2005 (effective at the end of 2006) based on tests showing possible carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity, and it is also banned in the European Union and has been on the California Proposition 65 warning list as a carcinogen since 1988.
Lead(II) acetate solution was a commonly used folk remedy for sore nipples. In modern medicine, for a time, it was used as an astringent, in the form of Goulard's Extract, and it has also been used to treat poison ivy.
An aqueous solution of lead(II) acetate is the byproduct of the 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar used in the cleaning and maintenance of stainless steel firearm suppressors (silencers) and compensators. The solution is agitated by the bubbling action of the hydrogen peroxide, and the main reaction is the dissolution of lead deposits within the suppressor by the acetic acid, which forms lead acetate. Because of its high toxicity, this chemical solution must be appropriately disposed by a chemical processing facility or hazardous materials centre. Alternatively, the solution may be reacted with sulfuric acid to precipitate nearly insoluble lead(II) sulfate. The solid may then be removed by mechanical filtration and is safer to dispose of than aqueous lead acetate.
- Pradyot, Patnaik (2003). Handbook of Inorganic Chemicals. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. ISBN 0-07-049439-8.
- Sigma-Aldrich Co., Lead(II) acetate trihydrate. Retrieved on 2014-06-08.
- "Lead compounds (as Pb)". Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health Concentrations (IDLH). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- Lead Poisoning and Rome
- Stoeppler, M. (1992), Hazardous Metals in the Environment, Techniques and Instrumentation in Analytical Chemistry, 12, Elsevier, p. 60, ISBN 9780080875606,
From the results achieved so far it is obvious that the purity law for lead in wines in the last two centuries was frequently ignored.
- Specht W and Fischer K (1959). Vergiftungsnachweis an den Resten einer 900 Jahre alten Leiche. Arch. Kriminol., 124: 61-84. [Translation:Intoxication evidence in the remains of a 900-year-old corpse]
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dies, Christoph Albert". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 211.
- Dies, Albert Christoph (1810). Biographische Nachrichten von Joseph Haydn nach mündlichen Erzählungen desselben entworfen und herausgegeben [Biographical Accounts of Joseph Haydn, written and edited from his own spoken narratives]. Vienna: Camesinaische Buchhandlung. English translation in: Dies, Albert Christoph (1963). "Biographical Accounts of Joseph Haydn". In Gotwals, Vernon (ed.). Haydn: Two Contemporary Portraits. (translation by Vernon Gotwals). Milwaukee: Univ. of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-02791-0.
- Pharmazeutische Zeitung zu Beethovens wahrscheinlicher Bleivergiftung
- Beethoven litt unter Bleivergiftung
- Mary Seacole: Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, Chapter IV, (1990 Oxford University Press reprint) ISBN 0-19-506672-3; (2005 Penguin 20th Century Classics reprint, ed. Sarah Salih) ISBN 0-14-043902-1
- Jane Robinson: Mary Seacole: The Charismatic Black Nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea, p.53. Constable 2004 (p/b. ISBN 1-84119-677-0)
- Gunn, Fenja. (1973). The Artificial Face: A History of Cosmetics. — as cited in Leisure Activities of an 18th Century Lady
- Lead Based Hair Products: Too Hazardous for Household Use - Results, Howard W. Mielke, PhD, Myiesha D. Taylor, Chris R. Gonzales, M. Kelley Smith, Pamela V. Daniels, and Ayanna V.Buckner. Journal of American Pharmaceutical Association (NS37, Jan/Feb 1997:85-89).
- Can West News Service: Grecian Formula in a grey zone after ban Archived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2014-11-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- The Project Gutenberg eBook of The American Frugal Housewife, by Lydia M. Child
- Laboratory manual in biology. Sharpe. 1911, American Book Company. p. 351
- Andés, Louis Edgar, and Arthur Morris. Oil colours and printers' inks a practical handbook treating of linseed oil, boiled oil, paints, artists' colours, lampblack and printers' inks, black and coloured. London: Scott, Greenwood ;, 1903. 41. Print.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lead(II) acetate.|
- Case Studies in Environmental Medicine - Lead Toxicity
- Essay on "Lead Poisoning and Rome"
- HowStuffWorks "What Kind of Hair Color Do Men Use?" discussion of progressive dyes containing lead acetate
- National Pollutant Inventory - Lead and Lead Compounds Fact sheet (Does Not Bring Up Lead)
- ToxFAQs: Lead
- US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fact sheet "Lead Acetate in Hair Dye Products"
- US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)21CFR73.2396 "PART 73 -- LISTING OF COLOR ADDITIVES EXEMPT FROM CERTIFICATION, Subpart C--Cosmetics, Sec. 73.2396 Lead acetate"
Acetyl halides and salts of the acetate ion