Tuesday 10/21/2014

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Congressman Calls on FDA to Ban Dangerous Head Lice Treatment for Kids

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Lindane Shampoo liceLindane, a pesticide known to cause serious damage to human health should not be alowed for use as a treatment for head lice in children, according to Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.). Markey has called on the FDA to ban lindane and protect our children. Lindane has been linked with side effects from skin irritations to seizures.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Markey pointed out that the EPA banned the pesticide lindane from agricultural use in 2006.

Lindane is an organochlorine insecticide, banned in the 1960s and 1970s due to their neurotoxic effects. Several groups have also declared lindane a possible carcinogen, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

After EPA banned lindane from agricultural use, 160 nations also agreed to ban its use, according to Markey's letter. California even nixed lindane as a treatment for lice and scabies in 2002 because of its potential effects on children and on the public water supply.

Sidney Wolfe, MD, of the consumer and health advocacy group Public Citizen, said his organization first called for a halt of pharmaceutical lindane use 37 years ago.

FDA Continues to Allow Lindane use for Head Lice Treatment

"Despite these actions and the known danger that lindane poses to human health, the FDA continues to allow the use of this insecticide as a treatment for head lice in children," according to Markey.

Although shampoos with lindane are FDA approved for the treatment of head lice, lindane is not listed as an approved therapy on the FDA's webpage on treating head lice, and the CDC webpage notes that the FDA doesn't recommend lindane as a first-line therapy for the treatment of head lice. The American Academy of Pediatrics also does not recommend shampoos with lindance as a treatment for head lice.

Instead, the CDC and FDA recommend over-the-counter pyrethrins or prescription malathion or benzyl alcohol lotions for the treatment of head lice. However the FDA still discusses how to use lindane shampoos for the treatment of head lice.

The FDA recommends only a single treatment with Lindane. This is because of the risk of serious side effects and even death when Lindane is applied too early the second time. 

"It's inexcusable that there's such a double standard," according to Wolfe. "Lindane banned by the EPA, yet it's allowed by the FDA. We shouldn't be selling potent toxins that are too dangerous to be used as pesticides."

In his letter, Markey asks FDA to address eight issues, including an assessment of the chemical's long-term effects on children and whether it has had any environmental impact from being poured down drains.

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