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Q. What is lindane?
A. Lindane (hexachlorocyclohexane) is a man-made organochlorine
pesticide used for agricultural purposes and as a widely prescribed
topical treatment for lice and scabies. Previously marketed under
the brandname, Kwell®, lindane is available in generic form,
as well as the brand name products including: Bio-Well, GBH, G-well,
Kildane, Kwildane, Scabene, and Thionex. Lindane is a prescription
strength medication, available in lotion (1% lindane), cream (1%)
and shampoo (1 %).
Q. Does lindane cause cancer?
A. Lindane has been shown to be a human carcinogen. Recent case
control studies report high rates of childhood brain cancer treated
with lindane shampoo.1 These findings are supported by several
reports of six-fold increases non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in farmers
exposed to lindane,2 Evidence of carcinogenicity is confirmed by
the World Health Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency
and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Q. Does lindane cause any other health problems?
A. Lindane is known hemotoxin-blood poison. In many case reports,
lindane exposure from recommended dosages has resulted in blood
diseases such as aplastic anemia.3 Aplastic anemia, which has a
high fatality rate, is a precursor to leukemia.
Lindane is also a neurotoxin - nerve poison. In many cases, treatment
with lindane shampoos have resulted in vomiting, seizures, brain
damage, and comas, Adverse effects have resulted from recommended
dosages of this product.
Q. Who is most at risk from exposure to lindane?
A. Children under the age of seven, children who were born premature,
and pregnant women are the most at risk for immediate adverse effects
from lindane exposure. Lindane is readily absorbed through the
skin and can immediately cause central nervous system damage. It
has also been shown to pass through the placenta, creating a serious
risk for expectant mothers.
Absorption of lindane is increased when applied with warm water
or followed by oil-based hair care products
Q. Is lindane regulated by the government?
A.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all pharmaceutical
products, lindane included. To date, the FDA has taken very little
action to inform patients of the long term effects of exposure
to lindane. The Environmental Protection Agency has severly restricted
the use of lindane as an agricultural pesticide due to lindane's
adverse health effects.
Q. Are there safer alternatives?
A. All commercial lice and scabies treatments
are pesticidal and should be used with extreme caution. For lice
with piperonyl butoxide are not carcinogenic and generally result
in fewer adverse effects than lindane products. Thorough treatment
includes the removal of all nits and lice by picking, combing and
clipping hair. Crotamiton has been recommended as a safer treatment
HERE ARE THREE THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO:
- Avoid all lice and scabies treatments that contain lindane.
- Contact your school or your child's school and urge them to warn
parents about the dangers of recommending lindane as a treatment
- Write to the FDA and encourage them to take lindane off the market
as a treatment for lice and scabies.
Experts call for ban on Lindane shampoos
Petition to Ban Lindane
1. Davis JR, Brownson RC, Garcia R, Beniz BJ and Turner A. "Family
pesticide use and childhood brain cancer." Arch Environ Contam
Toxicol 24: 87-92, 1993.
2. Cantor KP, Blair A, Everett G, Gibson R, Burmeister LF, Brown
LM, Schuman L and Dick FR. "Pesticides and other agricultural
risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lyrnphoma among men in Iowa and Minnesota,"
Cancer Res. 52: 2447-2455, 1992.
3. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. "Toxicological
profile for alpha-, beta- gamma-, and delt-hexachlorocyclohexane
(update)." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Pub.
No. TP-93.09, May 1994.
4. Solomon LM, west DP and Fitzloff JF. " Lindane." Letter,
Arch Dermatol 126: 248, 1990.
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.,
Cancer Prevention Coalition
2121 West Taylor Street,
Chicago, IL 60612