Daily News Archive
From August 2, 2002

EPA Restricts Use of Lindane

According to a news report by Greenwire, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided Wednesday to limit use of the organochlorine insecticide lindane. While environmentalists were pleased that the agency has taken positive steps to curb the use of this hazardous chemical, they believe that EPA should have gone further.

Lindane, an ingredient in prescription products used to treat head lice and scabies, ends up in public sewers when users rinse off shampoos and creams. A single lindane treatment can bring 6 million gallons of water up to the 16 parts per trillion level considered unsafe for drinking water.

Lindane is a persistent organic pollutant that bioaccumulates in the tissues of fish and other animals. In humans, improper usage can result in seizures, damage the kidney and liver, impair the immune system and, in rare cases, lead to death.

EPA's reassessment removed some registrations for lindane's agricultural uses because of concerns about worker safety. It also included new studies considering exposure to infants through breast milk and traditional diets, such as those of Alaskan Eskimos, which include seal and whale meat that tend to be high in bioaccumulative pesticides.

In its reassessment, EPA said it used a three-fold safety factor designed to protect children and other sensitive groups from pesticide exposure. EPA set people's maximum exposure to the chemical at 1 percent of what is considered safe for animals, then added the additional threefold safety factor. The Food Quality Protection Act generally requires a 10-fold safety factor.

For that reason, environmentalist say the reassessments fail to meet the legal requirements intended to safeguard children from pesticide exposure. Deborah Altschuler, president of the National Pediculosis Association, which advocates non-chemical treatments for head lice, believes that people tend to disregard instructions for lice treatments, compounding the exposure problems. "The only thing that's predictable about lindane is that people will have noncompliance. Normal use is misuse, and that needs to be considered. To think otherwise is foolish."