It makes no sense. FDA's decision this week to allow continued use of the neurotoxic pesticide lindane in children's lice shampoos has me completely stumped.
The pesticide's use in pet products were withdrawn long ago. Then agricultural uses were pulled, back in 2006. Yet FDA just re-blessed the lindane products that put children most directly at risk, shampoos applied to their heads and lotions to their bodies. These products have been banned for years in dozens of countries — including by our neighbors in Mexico — and in California since 2001. What is FDA thinking??
It's not that there's any question that lindane is harmful. It's a known neurotoxicant, carcinogen and endocrine disruptor that can harm human reproductive and immune systems.
It's in the same class of chemicals as DDT, which means it's longlasting, builds up in our bodies and can be passed to the next generation in the womb and through breastmilk. Which is why it's being banned worldwide under the international treaty that targets "persistent pollutants."
Why is the U.S. so far behind?
Here in the U.S., it seems the interests of the pharmaceutical company — which has lobbied tirelessly for its lindane products — trump the interests of our kids. Something is deeply wrong with this picture.
FDA had a chance to take lindane pharmaceutical products off the market once and for all, a few years ahead of the treaty-mandated deadline of 2014. Even though use of this antiquated product is already falling (turns out it actually doesn't work very well), that's a lot of children who would have been protected from a very dangerous pesticide.
This most recent thumbs up for lindane came in response to a legal petition filed by PAN with NRDC and other partners back in 2010, urging the agency to get with the global program, prioritize children's health, and pull lindane products now. After thinking about it for a couple of years, the agency said no.
A missed opportunity
This was an opportunity to do the right thing, and FDA missed the boat.
As a policy person at PAN, I'm deeply disappointed — and reminded of the disturbing weaknesses in the rules governing our use of and exposure to harmful pesticides. As a mother, I'm horrified, frustrated, and yes, kinda pissed off.
My colleague (and fellow mom) Mae Wu at NRDC put it well:
FDA has, once again, let down the public and failed in its mission to protect public health. In what should have been a fairly easy decision to follow the law and remove a drug from the market that is neither safe nor effective, the FDA today has instead ignored the clear science.
My message to those FDA officials? This was an absurd decision. You should be ashamed of yourselves.