Pesticide Action Network North America, April 06, 2005

Tell Bayer Not to Sell Lindane Products in U.S.!

The United States is one of the few countries in the world that still permits agricultural uses of the pesticide lindane. More than 50 countries--including all of Europe, Canada, and most recently Mexico--have phased out lindane use in agriculture. Ninety-nine percent of remaining lindane use in the U.S. is for seed treatment of a handful of grain crops.
Lindane, a dangerous neurotoxic pesticide, persists in the environment and builds up in our bodies. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control found lindane's breakdown product in 62% of people whose blood was sampled in the United States, with the highest levels in women of childbearing age. Lindane is also transported on wind and air currents to the Arctic region, where it is one of the most commonly found chemicals in the environment and a particular threat to indigenous people in the region.
Bayer CropScience recently acquired the company that distributes lindane agricultural products in North America. Canada has already banned seed treatment with lindane, and in early 2005, Bayer announced that it will withdraw registration of lindane seed treatment products in Mexico. Bayer executives need to know that the U.S. public wants to join Canada, Mexico and the rest of the world and stop using this dangerous pesticide!

Act Now: Write to Esmail Zirakparvar, President and CEO of Bayer CropScience's North American offices, urging him to immediately withdraw registration of lindane seed treatment products in the U.S.:

About Lindane
Banned in at least 52 countries and severely restricted in more than 33 others, the organochlorine pesticide lindane is currently registered for use in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. While Mexico recently committed to phase out all uses and Canada has phased out all agricultural uses, the U.S. continues seed treatment uses of lindane for corn, wheat and a handful of other grains. In an average year, 142,000 pounds of lindane are used agriculturally in the U.S. for seed treatment. Lindane use to control headlice and scabies also continues in the U.S. and Canada.
Agricultural uses are largely responsible for the pervasiveness of lindane and its breakdown products in the Arctic environment, where it is found more often than any other pesticide. Indigenous peoples of the north who rely on traditional diets of marine mammals and fish are particularly at risk from lindane exposure through foods. In 1997, the Northern Contaminants Program estimated 15 to 20 percent of Inuit women on southern Baffin Island are exposed to dangerous levels of lindane in their daily diet.
Lindane can cause seizures and damage to the nervous system, and can weaken the immune system. Case-controlled research shows a significant association between brain tumors in children and the use of lindane-containing lice shampoos. The insecticide is also a suspected carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Lindane and its breakdown products persist in the environment, where they can expose people and wildlife long after the pesticide is applied. A 2003 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 62% of U.S. residents sampled carry the insecticide in their body, and the highest levels are found among women of childbearing age.
In addition to agricultural uses, the Food and Drug Administration continues to approve use of this dangerous insecticide in shampoos and lotions for control of lice and scabies. These pharmaceutical uses are also approved in Canada. Given that elementary schools are frequently plagued with infestations of head lice and children are known to be particularly vulnerable to lindane's toxic effects, approval of this neurotoxin for head lice is especially risky. Use of these products on young children appears to be continuing despite new labeling required by FDA warning of the dangers of lindane use. Safer and more effective alternatives are available for all pharmaceutical uses of lindane. Careful combing with a specially designed fine-tooth comb for lice control is one example.
Lindane is also a significant contaminate in urban sewer systems and can pollute sources of drinking water. The Los Angeles County Sanitation District estimates that one dose of lindane shampoo used as a treatment for head lice contaminates six million gallons of water. This threat to clean drinking water, and the enormous costs of clean up, prompted California to ban lindane shampoos and lotions in 2002. After the ban, levels of lindane leaving Los Angeles County reclamation plants dropped dramatically.