Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has called on the FDA to ban the pesticide lindane as a treatment for head lice in children. Lindane is sold as Kwell shampoo and its generic versions.
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Markey pointed out that the EPA banned the pesticide - which has been linked with side effects from skin irritations to seizures - from agricultural use in 2006.
“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,” Markey wrote Thursday.
Although shampoos with the agent are FDA approved for the indication, the chemical is not listed as an approved therapy on the FDA’s webpage on treating head lice, and the CDC page notes that the FDA doesn’t recommend it as a first-line therapy. Nor does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend it as a treatment.
Instead, the CDC and FDA recommend over-the-counter pyrethrins or prescription malathion or benzyl alcohol lotions.
Lindane is an organochlorine insecticide, most of which - including DDT - were banned in the 1960s and 1970s due to their neurotoxic effects. Several groups have also declared it a possible carcinogen, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
After EPA banned it from agricultural use, 160 nations also agreed to ban its use, according to Markey’s letter. California even nixed it 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.
“It’s inexcusable that there’s such a double standard,” Wolfe told MedPage Today. “It’s 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.
An FDA spokesperson told MedPage Today that the agency will respond directly to the Congressman.
By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today