The Chemical Approach To Head Lice Has Failed.
BOSTON, March 13 /PRNewswire/ — It’s almost impossible to find a community in the U.S. that doesn’t have kids with lice. The non-profit National Pediculosis Association (NPA) says this fact adds to the scientific evidence that the chemical approach to controlling head lice has failed. The continual reliance on pesticide treatments has enabled the louse to become well established among the childhood population. The NPA advises parents that the safe alternative is to screen often and manually remove lice and nits (lice eggs). To help the millions of families affected by this communicable childhood disease, the NPA has developed the LiceMeister(R) comb, and is making it available to communities through local pharmacies.
The February 2000 issue of the publication Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology reports that researchers using DNA sequencing have added to the growing body of evidence of lice resistance to the leading pesticide shampoos. This latest research makes it possible to accomplish independent scientific documentation of resistance early and objectively. Pesticide resistance can now be identified by genetic mutation rather than the tedious and often difficult collection of live lice and assay method.
Deborah Z. Altschuler, NPA president, says that lice resistance is predictable. “It would be prudent for the FDA to routinely monitor lice resistance to pediculicides as a measure of safety. Otherwise useless products remain on the market and people are exposed to the risks without benefit.”
The LiceMeister comb enables parents to screen for head lice and nits, detect them early and manually remove them. This is what the agency promotes as the logical safe ticket to defeating lice without hurting the kids. The goal is to help parents protect their children from unnecessary exposures to products designed to kill or destroy bugs and to keep kids in school, lice and nit free.
Promises that chemical agents will be totally effective lull many parents into a false sense of security. When the products fail to kill the lice, people become desperate and switch from one product to another. Reports indicate that many who use the pesticide shampoos misuse them by using them too long and too often. The result is a child overexposed to pesticides but still with head lice. The US Federal Trade Commission recently settled a lawsuit against several product manufacturers for falsely representing the effectiveness of their lice shampoos.
Dr. Michael Frogel, Chief of General Pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital, New Hyde Park, New York says, “We need a sound communicable disease strategy to avoid using pesticide shampoos as much as avoiding head lice. Manual removal is realistic and practical with an effective device and needn’t be a crisis for families. This is about encouraging the right choices by educating parents in advance and providing the tools to help them get it right.”
Consumer Reports Magazine’s recent update on lice remedies (Feb/2000) states that the safest and surest method of getting rid of head lice remains the one the magazine recommended in 1998: daily removal of lice and nits. Over half of NPA’s calls come from frustrated parents that rightfully do not want their children to be infested.
The NPA website (http://www.headlice.org) averages 25,000 hits a day and visitors are clearly searching for help. Many of these parents have also tried and failed with newer products marketed via the Internet. While the Internet marketed lice products, many without FDA approval, are touted to be safe, natural, non-toxic and “totally effective” in killing or destroying lice and nits, these are pesticidal claims nonetheless.
Professor of Nonprescription Products and Devices at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, W. Steven Pray, Ph.D., R.Ph., warns about a general lack of safeguards. He advises against unregulated head lice remedies until sufficient data proving safety and efficacy is provided and approved by the FDA. Jay Feldman, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, agrees with the NPA’s approach to give parents the option to use the non-chemical manual method.
Feldman emphasizes that children unfortunately have more than their fair share of pesticide insults in their food, air and water. He states that, “This is a perfect opportunity to avoid a direct exposure of a pesticide to a child.” As the LiceMeister comb gains momentum, the same industry that wasn’t interested in developing combing tools is already attempting LiceMeister comb knock-offs. When asked what the NPA thinks of this, Altschuler says, “The NPA can’t lose. Either way, we just keep raising the standards. It’s our job.”
Susan Rogers, President of School Health Corporation calls the LiceMeister comb the “gold standard” featuring it on the home page of their web site and on the back of over 100,000 catalogs just mailed to school nurses across the country. Proceeds from the comb help support and expand the NPA’s programs of education, prevention and research.
LiceMeister combs are provided to the disenfranchised, orphanages and other charities in the U.S. and around the world. Thousands of combs were recently donated to children in war-torn areas in Europe where louse-borne diseases are not uncommon. The NPA sponsors the All Out Comb Out, which annually kicks off its September Back-to-School Head Lice Prevention Campaign, which continues throughout the year.
The NPA’s new campaign poster says it best:
“Because it’s not about lice, it’s about kids.(TM)”