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Tiffinie's Story

Tiffinie, age 9, was a healthy, athletic little girl until Sunday, February 15, 1987. The previous week, Tiffinie's brother had been diagnosed with head lice at a local clinic. Kwell shampoo was prescribed for the I½-year-old boy. The physician's assistant recommended that Kwell be used on the whole family as well as the little boy. The physician's assistant told Tiffinie's mom to use the product just as one would any normal shampoo, to lather her son's hair in the same manner as one normally would with any other shampoo product, to use the same amount that one normally would use with any other shampoo. She was never directed to use gloves; was never informed that this shampoo should not be used during a bath or shower; was never directed not to use cream rinse following a Kwell shampoo; and was never warned to ensure that the room was well ventilated when using the product. Tiffinie's mom had no idea that what she would be using on her children was a poison, designed to kill unwanted insects.

On Sunday, February 15, Tiffinie shampooed her hair with Kwell while taking a shower. Her mother poured the shampoo into Tiffinie's hand in an amount that she felt would adequately lather Tiffinie's long hair. Tiffinie's mother timed the use of the shampoo for approximately four to five minutes. Tiffinie then rinsed her hair and applied conditioner.

The family spent the afternoon at a basketball tournament during which Tiffinie appeared to be feeling fine, shooting baskets and turning cartwheels. She complained of a stomach ache during dinner and only finished half of her meal. She fell asleep on the couch in the living room while watching television and remained there throughout the night.

On Monday morning, when her mother tried to arouse Tiffinie, she was horrified when the child went into convulsions and started having seizures. Tiffinie was rushed to the hospital where the admitting diagnosis was encephalopathy of unknown etiology. The emergency room personnel tried to determine what chemical or other substance Tiffinie could have possibly been exposed to. Her mom searched her memory but could not think of any possibility of toxic exposure. The Kwell shampoo never occurred to her, having been prescribed as an innocuous topical product.

As her seizures continued, Tiffinie was transferred to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. She was admitted with a diagnosis of acute encephalopathy. Infectious and traumatic causes were ruled out. When Tiffinie's mother remembered and inquired about her daughter's recent use of Kwell shampoo, the UNMH Pediatric ICU staff tested Tiffinie's blood for lindane levels. The primary diagnosis became lindane toxicity. 72 hours after application a blood lindane level remained. More likely than one solid ingestion or absorption would have been the little girl's continued absorption from incompletely rinsed or non-rinsed shampoo application, with the conditioner acting as a catalyst.

Tiffinie was hospitalized for a month in Albuquerque. She has suffered permanent brain injury and continues to have seizures. A lawsuit was filed on Tiffinie's behalf against Block Drug Co., Inc., Reed & Carnrick, a division of Block Drug Co., Inc., and Reedco, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Block Drug Co., Inc., the manufacturers of Kwell Shampoo.

 

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