Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Sign our petition before Sunday and tell U.S. decision makers to ban lindane: http://www.petitiononline.com/lindane
Banned in at least 17 countries and severely restricted in more than 20 others, the organochlorine pesticide lindane is currently registered for use in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. In the U.S., the vast majority of lindane is applied to corn, wheat and a handful of other grains before planting. In an average year, 142,000 pounds of lindane are used agriculturally in the U.S. for seed treatment.
These continuing agricultural uses are largely responsible for the pervasiveness of lindane and its breakdown products in the Arctic environment, where it is found more often than any other pesticide. Indigenous peoples of the north who rely on traditional diets of marine mammals and fish are particularly at risk from lindane exposure through foods. In 1997, the Northern Contaminants Program estimated 15 to 20 percent of Inuit women on southern Baffin Island exceeded the tolerable daily intake of lindane.
Lindane can cause seizures and damage to the nervous system, and can weaken the immune system. Case-controlled research has shown a significant association between the incidence of brain tumors in children and the use of lindane-containing lice shampoos. The insecticide is also a suspected carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Lindane and its breakdown products persist in the environment, where they can expose people and wildlife long after the pesticide is applied. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2003 determined 62% of U.S. residents carry the insecticide in their body.
The FDA continues to approve use of this dangerous insecticide in shampoos and lotions for control of lice and scabies. Given that elementary schools are frequently plagued with infestations of head lice, and children are known to be particularly vulnerable to lindane's toxic effects, approval of this neurotoxin for head lice is especially risky. Safer and more effective alternatives are available for all pharmaceutical uses of lindane. Careful combing with a fine-tooth, specially designed comb, for example, is an effective head lice treatment.
Lindane is also a significant contaminate in urban sewer systems and can pollute sources of drinking water. The Los Angeles County Sanitation District estimates that one dose of lindane laced shampoo used as a treatment for head lice contaminates six million gallons of water. This threat to clean drinking water, and the enormous costs of clean up, prompted California to ban lindane shampoos in 2002. After the ban, levels of lindane leaving Los Angeles County reclamation plants dropped dramatically.
Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are now drafting a North American Regional Action Plan for lindane. It is not yet clear what position U.S. federal agencies will take as the region considers a complete ban of the insecticide. More than 30 environmental, health and indigenous groups have signed an urgent letter to U.S. officials urging an immediate ban of all uses of lindane in the region.
Later this month EPA and FDA, which share responsibility for regulating lindane, will decide whether the U.S. will join the growing list of countries that have banned this toxic pesticide. Sign our petition before Sunday, August 22, and urge U.S. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt and Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Lester M. Crawford, to ban lindane now!
Sources: Statement in Support of the Elimination of Lindane Use in North America, PANNA, Alaska Community Action on Toxics; North American Regional Action Plan on Lindane, Background Document, Commission on Environmental Cooperation of North America, email firstname.lastname@example.org, website http://www.cec.org; PANNA, Global Pesticide Campaigner, August, 2004.