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Lice Won't Kill You but Its Treatment Can: Experts Call for Ban on Lindane Shampoos

Press Conference, January 17, 1995, CPC, 520 N. Michigan, Chicago, IL 60611

Chicago — According to scientific experts, commonly prescribed lice shampoos can cause fatal childhood cancer. The Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC) will inform the public of this danger at a press briefing on January 17, 1995 at 12 noon.

About six million Americans, mainly children, are infested with lice each year. A common treatment for lice is a shampoo containing the pesticide lindane. Recent epidemiological studies have reported high rates of brain cancer in children treated with lindane shampoos. These findings are significant in light of the dramatic 38% increase of childhood brain and nervous system cancer rates from 1973 to 1991.

Additional evidence comes from recent studies linking lindane exposure to increased risks of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and also from long-standing evidence on fatal blood diseases including aplastic anemia and leukemia. These findings are supported by experimental evidence of carcinogenicity confirmed by the World Health Organization, the Environmental protection Agency, and the Department of health and Human Services; on the basis of such hazards, the EPA and several other countries have restricted lindane's use in agriculture, and other countries have banned it. Additionally, lindane is a known neurotoxin - resulting in seizures and brain damages at dose levels used in the shampoos.

CPC has sent letters to the Chicago Board, and to other local and state authorities urging that they warn parents of the dangers of lindane shampoo and to encourage them to seek out safer treatments. CPC has also filed a citizen petition with the Food and Drug Administration calling for a ban of lindane-based shampoos.

Speakers at the press conference will include Chair Dr. Samuel Epstein, CPC Board members Dr. Quentin Young and Dr. Peter Orris, parent Community Council President Mr. James Deanes, and Legal Director of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Deutsch. The speakers will discuss the public health implications of these data and will offer information about safer alternatives.

Commenting on the widely-prescribed use of lindane, Dr. Quentin Young, CPC Board member said, "It is a serious medical tragedy when these products are used with such good intentions and can have such tragic outcomes."

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