News & Events

How health care sometimes hurts patients and the environment

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
March 2005 Edition

By Evelyn Bain, M Ed, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director/Coordinator, Health & Safety

At a recent meeting of A Health Tomorrow and The Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, I had the pleasure to learn about The National Pediculosis Association and nontoxic alternatives to treating head lice.

Individual toxicity
The chemicals in pesticides used in conventional treatment for head lice, can be absorbed through the skin and inhaled by both the child and the parent or whoever is applying the chemical. Pesticides accumulate in the body and build up to toxic levels over time, especially since many other products that are used frequently contain pesticides, i.e., sun screen products containing insect repellant or insect repellant itself (very toxic products indeed).

Adverse reactions
Headache, nausea, confusion, dizziness are noted as immediate reactions to absorbed or inhaled pesticides. They are also associated with long term health consequences including certain cancers.

Environmental toxicity
The chemicals in these products can also be found in ground water because they are not bio-degradable. They are in a class of chemicals known as bio-accumulative toxins or BAT’s.

Non-toxic alternatives exist
The National Pediculosis Association has a kit and a process called the Lice Meister and information about this product is available at its website An association fact sheet is reprinted at below.

Recently an MNA member, Cindy Juncker, lead school nurse in Gloucester, shared another nontoxic alternative that facilitates nit removal. She recommended: cover the hair and scalp liberally with olive oil, apply a shower cap and leave in place for six to eight hours, use a fine tooth comb to comb out the nits, wash the head using a clarifying shampoo and finally repeat this process every four days for a 21 day-cycle. Most important, according to Juncker, is manual removal of the nits from the hair shaft with fingernails.

No matter what you do…

Be Sure To Provide a
Non-Chemical Choice For
Children, Families, and Yourself!

Why? Because children of any age or size are vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides. They also often have pregnant or nursing mothers who should never be exposed to chemical treatments either by applying them to themselves or to others.

Why? Because too many people unfortunately overuse chemical agents out of fear and frustration without adequate warning of the risks to themselves and the environment.

Why? Because each of us has unique vulnerabilities. Pesticide products can accumulate in the human body and they are not necessarily washed away at the end of the treatment, as people would like to think.

Why? Because the overuse of lice products can predispose a person to adverse reactions with even one additional chemical exposure.

Why? Because it’s not worth taking unnecessary risks when the bottom line will always be the manual removal of lice and nits.

Why? Because none of the available chemical treatments are 100% effective and too many people are told to seek prescriptions after other treatments fail. Prescriptions become the most potentially harmful treatment of them all!

Why? Because pesticides pose a risk to all children, and none are more at risk than the growing number treated for illnesses and/or on medication.

Why? Because everyone needs a non-chemical way to screen and detect head lice early and remove them safely and effectively.

Why? "Cuz if you don’t get ’em out, you’ve still got ’em!" "Because it’s not about lice, it’s about kids."