Sugar of Lead

Lead Cube
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One way you might suspect lead is seeping from your plumbing into your water is if the first water from the tap tastes sweeter than water after the tap has run a while. Lead tastes sweet. In fact, lead (II) acetate [Pb(C2H3O2)2·3H2O] is a compound that has another name: sugar of lead. Sugar of lead has been used as a sweetener throughout history. No honey or sugar? No problem! There is a calorie-free alternative. It's toxic, but you won't put on pounds from eating it. If you use enough of it, you might forget to eat altogether. The perfect diet aid.

The ancient Romans would boil down grape juice in lead pots and use the resulting syrup to sweeten wine and preserve fruit. We all know how it went down for the Romans, but lead acetate is still in use today. The modern preparation of lead(II) acetate is made by mixing aqueous acetic acid with lead carbonate and evaporating off the water.

Have you noticed some lipsticks taste sweet on your lips even though when you read the ingredient list, they contain no sugar or other sweeteners... well... except the lead acetate. Lead acetate is found in red lipsticks more than other colors. The chemical helps with colorfastness, which is why it's also using in dyeing, including progressive hair color, like Grecian Formula™ for men. You can have a head of youthfully dark hair, all the better to attract that lovely lady with the ruby red lips and the sweet, sweet kiss.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Sugar of Lead." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 27). Sugar of Lead. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Sugar of Lead." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).