Daily News Archive
Treatment Offers Easy, Non-Toxic Solution to Head Lice
(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2004)
A dermatologist in California has developed a treatment for head lice
that does not use toxic chemicals, and does not require nit removal.
The new method kills lice by suffocating them with a lotion that dries
on the scalp. In early studies, the treatment, called Nuvo lotion, proved
as effective as standard insecticide lotions.
In a paper published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dale Pearlman,
M.D. said that with his method, nits (the lice eggs) did not need to
be combed out of the hair first. The lotion was massaged onto wet hair
and scalp and then blown dry to form a shrink-wrapped, airtight invisible
film that completely covered the hair shafts and lice. The lice then
suffocated. "Lice have portholes on the side of their bodies, which
they breathe through. If you plug up all those portholes, they die,"
Dr. Pearlman told Reuters
The lotion must be left on for at least eight hours and then should
be shampooed out. The process is repeated at one-week intervals for
a total of three treatments. In the journal article, Dr. Pearlman notes
that all of the ingredients in the lotion are "generally recognized
as safe" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nuvo lotion
is composed of stearyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate,
cetyl alcohol, water and other ingredients.
In two separate studies involving a total of 133 children with confirmed
head lice infestation, the overall cure rate was 96 percent. These results
are "comparable or superior" to results achieved with the
standard neurotoxin-based head lice treatments, Dr. Pearlman emphasized.
Conventional lice treatment shampoos contain insecticides such as permethrin,
malathion, and lindane, all of them with serious health concerns for
is a possible carcinogen and a suspected endocrine disruptor. Endocrine
disruptors interfere with normal hormone function and can contribute
to breast and testicular cancer, birth defects, learning disorders,
and other problems. Animal studies also indicate that small amounts
of permethrin may cause immunotoxicity, or corruption of the immune
Malathion has been
shown in to affect not only the central nervous system, but the immune
system, adrenal glands, liver and blood as well. Malathion is mutagenic
in humans and animals. It has also been associated with birth defects
in domestic and laboratory animals. Lindane
is a carcinogen, and can cause seizures or even death when absorbed
through the skin. In the past few years, over 500 cases of adverse impacts
from lindane-containing products have been reported. Additionally, children
in general are more vulnerable and susceptible to the harmful effects
of pesticides because they have developing organ systems that are more
vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Low levels of
pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child's neurological, immune
and endocrine systems.
In addition to the health effects associated with these insecticides,
research suggests that lice and their eggs are increasingly resistant
to the over-the counter shampoos recommended by most pediatricians and
school administrators, making lice more and more difficult to kill.
(See Daily News
Story). According to Dr. Pearlman, resistance is not an issue with
This new Nuvo lotion is currently only available for research. Dr. Pearlman,
who holds the patent on the lotion, told Reuters Health that he is "scrambling
around to find a partner -- a company, government agency, or foundation
-- to help with controlled studies, marketing, and regulatory actions."
TAKE ACTION: Even though Nuvo lotion is not on the market
yet, there are other non-toxic alternatives to insecticide treatments,
such as enzyme treatments (Not
Nice to Lice, and Lice-B-Gone).
Another plant derived product is Planet
Solutions. Using a nit comb and coconut oil can also be effective.
For more information, see our Head
Lice Factsheet or Getting
Nit Picky About Head Lice or contact Beyond
Pesticides/NCAMP for a information on controlling head lice without