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 coloring dyes. Lead(II) acetate is also used as a mordant in textile printing and dyeing, as a drier in paints and varnishes, and in preparing other lead compounds.
Pope Clement II died in October 1047. A recent toxicologic examination of his remains confirmed centuries old rumors that the Pope had been poisoned with lead sugar. It is, however, not clear whether he was assassinated or not, as lead sugar in those times was often used as a cure for venereal diseases.
In 1787 the painter Albert Christoph Dies swallowed, by accident, three-quarters of an ounce of lead acetate. His recovery from this poison was slow and incomplete. He lived with illnesses until his death in 1822.
Sugar of lead has also been used to treat poison ivy.
Lead acetate is no longer used as a sweetener in most of the world because of its recognized toxicity.
Lead acetate paper is used to detect the poisonous gas hydrogen sulfide. The gas reacts with lead(II) acetate on the moistened test paper to form a grey precipitate of lead(II) sulfide.
Lead acetate solution was a commonly used folk remedy for sore nipples.
An aqueous solution of lead 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). 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 hazmat center. Alternately, the solution may be reacted with salt water or sulfuric acid to precipitate insoluble lead chloride or lead sulfate, respectively. The solids may then be removed by mechanical filtration and are safer to dispose of than aqueous lead acetate.