Daily News Archives
From February 4, 2005

Group Calls Head Lice Treatments a Continuing Health Threat to Children
(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2005)
The National Pediculosis Association (NPA), a non-profit health and education agency, says the continued use of pesticide treatments for head lice makes pediculosis a major public health issue affecting children today. Shampooing with pesticides, such as lindane and synthetic pyrethroids, has the potential to damage children in the same manner as these chemicals are designed to damage pests. NPA says the reason parents are still shampooing children with pesticides today is because the pharmaceutical companies invest millions of dollars to convince consumers and health professionals that this is what they should do.

NPA's President Deborah Z. Altschuler says you would think protecting children from such unnecessary direct exposure to poisons would be a given – but it is not. Lice products containing pesticides and other serious chemicals are readily available in the neighborhood drug store and continue to be recommended and prescribed by the pediatricians and school nurses who rely on product marketing information (www.headlice.org/faq/winning/strangeliceinfo.htm) as the basis for treatment-centered public health policy.

This scenario is a classic example of what is discussed in three recently published books addressing how product driven health policies negatively impact society. They warn of how Americans as individuals, and the health care system in general, have been sacrificed to sell pharmaceuticals.

The titles alone speak volumes.

Marcia Angell, M.D., former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine in her book The Truth About the Drug Companies, How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, dedicates an entire chapter to how pharmaceutical companies promote their products by masquerading marketing as education in order to influence consumer and health professionals.

John Abramson, M.D., a former family practitioner who teaches at Harvard Medical School, in his newly released book Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, reports a “changed purpose of medical knowledge – from seeking to optimize health to searching for the greatest profits.”

In the third book, On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health, author Jerome Kassirer, Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine outlines the conflict of interest between “profit-centered business and people-centered medicine.”

The NPA says the issue isn't just the pharmaceutical companies promoting their pesticide products for use on kids: it is how this profit-driven approach permeates the non-profit sector as well. The same organizations that issue treatment guidelines to pediatricians, family physicians and school nurses receive support and funding from the lice treatment manufacturers whose products they recommend and accept as paid advertisers in their publications. According to NPA, each child shampooed with pesticides by a mother misguided by a system of “profits first” is a travesty and a red flag for just how little consideration is given to children’s health in these supposedly health conscious times.

In August 2004, Beyond Pesticides along with other environmental and public health organizations sent a letter to EPA calling for the rapid elimination of pharmaceutical, veterinary, and agricultural uses of the pesticide lindane throughout North America. The letter encouraged EPA to ban these uses when it meets with Canada and Mexico to develop a North American Regional Action Plan (NARAP) on lindane. Other co-signers included Natural Resources Defense Council, Department of Planet Earth, Washington Toxics Coalition, Pesticide Action Network North America, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, and Montana Coalition for Health, Environmental and Economic Rights.

For information on the NPA and its non-chemical approach, visit www.headlice.org/downloads/whynonchem.htm.