Determination of inseparable exogenous and endogenous levels of toxic trace elements such as lead in human scalp hair has been used to understand and assess population exposure to such elements. For any such analysis, washing of the hair samples to remove superficial contamination is the foremost requirement. However, the use of such washing methods prior to elemental analysis removes minute quantities of trace elements from the hair strands. This degree of loss is dependent on the washing method employed. In the present study, the element lead has been determined in human scalp hair after three methods of hair washing. It is apparent that the nonionic detergent-acetone method is best suited for securing valid lead analysis results in human scalp hair. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.