(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2007) According to a study published December 11, 2007 in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, banning lindane is a viable solution to protecting health and the environment without resulting in increasing problems with head lice and scabies. In 2002, California banned pharmaceutical use of lindane due to concerns about water quality, when high levels of this treatment for head lice and scabies were found to be impacting wastewater quality.
The study, “Outcomes of the California Ban on Pharmaceutical Lindane: Clinical and Ecologic Impacts,” describes the effects the ban has had on wastewater quality, unintentional exposures, and clinical practice. This is the first time that a pharmaceutical has been outlawed to protect water quality. As such, this ban provides a rare opportunity to evaluate the possible or potential outcomes of future public health interventions aimed at reducing pharmaceutical water contamination.
The study authors compiled data on lindane in wastewater treatment plant effluent for several large plants in California and one outside of California. Data on exposures to lindane were obtained from records of the California Poison Control System. The impact on clinical practice was assessed via a survey of 400 pediatricians.
Wastewater treatment plant monitoring showed that lindane declined in California after the ban. Similarly, unintentional exposure calls declined. Most physicians were aware of the ban (81%) and had used lindane previously (61%), but did not notice any difficulties with the ban (78%).
According to the study’s authors, the California experience suggests elimination of pharmaceutical lindane produced environmental benefits, was associated with a reduction in reported unintentional exposures and did not adversely affect head lice and scabies treatment. This ban serves as a model for governing bodies considering limits on the use of lindane or other pharmaceuticals.
Depending on its use, lindane is considered a pesticide or a drug. As a lice or scabies product intended to be used on the human body, it is registered with the Food and Drug Administration as a drug. When it is applied in other ways, it is typically registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide.