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Congressman Asks FDA to Halt Toxic Pesticide Lindane for Head Lice

(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2012) Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has asked the U.S. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt the use of the insecticide lindane in pharmaceutical treatments for head lice in children. Despite research on its toxicity and ineffectiveness, FDA continues to allow lindane to be used in prescription shampoos and lotions to treat cases of lice and scabies, overwhelmingly on children. Rep. Markey’s letter to the FDA can be found here.

Lindane has been found to cause skin irritation, seizures, and, in rare instances, even death. Infants and children are especially sensitive to the health risks posed by pesticides such as lindane because of their developing bodies. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that lindane could cause cancer in humans, and the EPA cancelled all pesticide registrations for agricultural uses of lindane in 2006 because of its toxicity to humans and persistence in the environment. It was banned in California in 2000 because of high levels of water contamination. Following the ban, water contamination drastically declined, and an increase in head lice cases was not reported. A 2002 study that compared efficacy of five available products on head lice found that lindane was the least effective of all the products.

“In the case of lindane, the cure is worse than disease,” said Rep. Markey. “There is not a nit of scientific evidence to support the FDA’s decision to continue to allow the use of this toxic chemical for treatment used predominantly on children.”

Rep. Markey’s letter also notes that the presence of lindane in treatment products has led to its detection in and contamination of waterways. Officials in Los Angeles found that a single treatment for head lice or scabies contains enough lindane to bring six million gallons of water above the California water quality standard. The pharmaceutical use of lindane was banned in California in 2002. And in 2009, more than 160 nations agreed to ban the agricultural use of lindane.

Rep. Markey’s letter to FDA asks for responses to questions that include:
• Why is this compound still allowed for use on children even after the FDA noted that lindane is especially harmful to this segment of the population?
• Has the FDA taken into consideration the long-term chronic impacts that lindane exposure may have on children?
• Has the FDA evaluated the increased resistance that head lice and scabies have developed to lindane treatment?
• If FDA determined that approval of lindane as a treatment for head lice and scabies was no longer warranted because of safety and efficacy concerns, what immediate actions could FDA take to halt the use of lindane and to ensure the public is protected from this dangerous chemical?

Head lice affect an estimated 12 million people in the U.S. each year, and are rapidly becoming resistant to over-the-counter and prescription medications. According to researchers on alternative lice treatments, one method for eliminating head lice that will not lead to resistant strains of lice is the use of hot air, which desiccates the insects and eggs, thus killing them.

For information on controlling head lice without toxic chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides’ Head Lice Factsheet or Getting Nit Picky About Head Lice.

Source: Congressman Ed Markey Press Release

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.


One Response to “Congressman Asks FDA to Halt Toxic Pesticide Lindane for Head Lice”

  1. 1
    Adam Follman Says:

    I strongly believe that my use of Lindane Pesticides from 1988 to 1998 has caused has been accumulative in nature and started out after a few years of using this Lindane to cause me seizure/other type problems and was put on Rx Depacote, then in 1998 full blown Crohns disease hit me, auto immune problems in which Lindane is noted to cause. My neighbor in which I sprayed his property which was the other half of my Duplex (renter) also developed Crohns disease at the same time…
    Please help me if you know anyone handling a class action lawsuit or other that would allow me major compensation and I have a lot, a lot of documentation as to the useage of Lindane/progression of my disorders from mostly likely from the useage of Lindane. Help me please….I cannot work anymore, had to go on Disablity a couple years ago…I am 64 yrs old and cannot work anymore and my small intestines are destroyed from Crohns disease………maybe not that long to live, yet dad lived till 91 yrs old, I may only live 10 more yrs and considered inoperable due to damage Crohns has done to my intestines….

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