What is it?

Lindane is used in Canada in low concentrations as a non-prescription drug. It is also known as gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (γ-HCH).

Where is it found and how is it used?

Currently in Canada, lindane is available in low concentrations as a non-prescription drug for the treatment of lice and scabies. Lindane was once used as a treatment for seeds or soils to protect crops such as canola, barley, corn, wheat and other small grains from pests. It is no longer used as a pesticide in Canada, and has been banned in over 50 other countries around the world.

What are its effects?

Lindane is a Persistent Organic Pollutant. This means it stays in the environment for long periods of time, and can travel long distances through the atmosphere and return to Earth far from its original source. Lindane is bioaccumulative, meaning it increases in amounts as it moves up the food chain. Hexachlorocylcohexanes (of which lindane is one) are considered to be possible human carcinogens. This risk is greatest with occupational exposure. The risks of using low-dose lindane as a treatment for lice and scabies, when used as directed, are much less than those associated with long-term and continuous exposure as an agricultural pesticide. That is why the product is no longer used in agriculture. 

What are we doing?

The Government of Canada ended the use of lindane as a pesticide in December 2004. It is an ingredient in a regulated pharmaceutical product used to treat lice. As with all pharmaceutical products, package directions should be followed very carefully. If you use products containing lindane, such as shampoos or lotions to treat lice or scabies, follow the directions for use carefully. There are alternatives that do not involve lindane. The Canadian Paediatric Society says products with lindane should not be used on infants or young children. It suggests alternatives such as products with pyrethrin or permethrin. The Government of Canada is expecting to propose a Significant New Activity provision for lindane under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 in Winter 2007.

Additionally, Canada, along with Mexico and the United States, will begin to implement a North American Regional Action Plan on lindane and other hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) isomers under the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to reduce the risks of lindane and HCH isomers in North America.

Being informed is the best protection. Find out more about lindane as a treatment for head lice.

Health effects for any substance depend on the amount of exposure, and how that exposure occurs.

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