Kristin Schafer

Kristin Schafer

Lice comb trumps lindane on global stage

It's official: A specially designed comb works just as well to control headlice as shampoos laced with lindane. As an added bonus, there's no exposure to neurotoxins involved.

Later this month in Geneva, a simple, effective lice comb designed by the National Pediculosis Association (NPA) — a small U.S. nonprofit group — will finally get the thumbs up it deserves.

Putting a persistent pesticide that's slated for global ban on children's heads never did seem to make much sense. But that's exactly what POPs treaty officials agreed to when they approved an exemption for shampoos and lotions containing the pesticide lindane back in 2009. The good news is they also pledged to identify and promote POPs-free alternatives, and NPA's LiceMeister comb made the list.

The lindane saga is long, complex, and full of more drama than you'd expect — with corporate lawsuits, aggressive lobbying and pitched policy battles. It's a fight PAN has been engaged in for a very long time, and one I've been directly involved with from the get go (if  you're interested in the backstory about our Lindane Lunch for policymakers or getting lindane out of agriculture, let me know).

Putting a persistent, neurotoxic pesticide on children's heads never did make much sense.

The upshot is that this dangerous chemical will be banned globally under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (aka POPs Treaty), and the exemption for "pharmaceutical uses" will sunset in another 3 years. For those wondering, lindane shampoos are still allowed in the U.S., though they've been banned in California (with no public health emergencies ensuing) since 2001. We joined our partners at NRDC in a citizen petition to complain about this to FDA last year; no progress to report as yet.

Meanwhile, we heartily applaud the Stockholm Convention's spotlight on NPA's LiceMeister comb. In a recent editorial, NPA's president Deborah Altschuler pointed to her organization's long-time commitment to promoting children's health:

Combing is the safest and most cost effective approach that accomplishes what chemicals cannot. It allows regular screening and early detection which makes the combing approach practical and realistic. While chemical treatments, pediculicides, and broad spectrum antibiotics develop resistance and potentially adverse health effects, nothing compares to the kindness of a comb.

Hear, hear. And congratulations, Deborah, for bringing your common sense message to the international stage.

Kristin Schafer

Kristin Schafer

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