What is Lindane?

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Lindane is an organic compound produced as a white solid from hexachlorocyclohexane for use as an insecticide. Also known as gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane, benzene hexachloride, and Gammallin, lindane is also used in the preparation of prescription-based shampoos and creams to treat scabies and lice.

Blood and urine samples may be collected to detect hexachlorocyclohexane.
Blood and urine samples may be collected to detect hexachlorocyclohexane.

Lindane is classified as a neurotoxin and is a suspected carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. Its mechanism of action is to block an important neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) at receptor sites. As a pharmaceutical, lindane products are required to be labeled with a "black box warning" in the United States. This is a cautionary statement that improper use of the product may cause harm to infants, children, the elderly, those with certain skin conditions, or weighing less than 110 pounds (50 kg). The warning also advises that lindane products must not be used at all on premature infants or those with seizure disorders.

Condoms may be ineffective against some sexually-transmitted conditions, such as pubic lice and scabies.
Condoms may be ineffective against some sexually-transmitted conditions, such as pubic lice and scabies.

Although lindane has not been manufactured in the U.S. since 1976, it continues to be imported for pharmaceutical use. With the exception of California and Michigan, it is permitted for this purpose in most states. On a global scale, numerous countries either restrict or require registration for the use of lindane as an agricultural insecticide, including the U.S. However, lindane has been banned altogether in at least 52 countries since 2006.

Some medicated, prescription-strength shampoos contain lindane, which may help treat lice and scabies infections.
Some medicated, prescription-strength shampoos contain lindane, which may help treat lice and scabies infections.

Lindane is very persistent in the environment. In fact, it accumulates in the fatty tissue of fish and adheres to soil particles as a vapor. Lindane can also be transported significant distances through a natural process known as global distillation, or the grasshopper effect. Since it survives as an airborne vapor for long periods, it will ride air currents and eventually gravitate to cooler climates where it will condense and accumulate. This is why pollutants are sometimes found in animal tissue and soil samples in elevated regions, even though the substance didn’t originate there.

Any improper use of lindane can be harmful to babies and children.
Any improper use of lindane can be harmful to babies and children.

Although lindane exposure does not usually cause birth defects in animals, it is not known if it does in humans. However, it should be noted that studies have shown that lindane can pass through the placenta of pregnant women and enter breast milk. If there is any concern over possible toxicity from this organic compound, testing is available. Hexachlorocyclohexane isomers can be detected and measured from samples of body fat, breast milk, semen, blood and urine.

Hexachlorocyclohexane isomers may be detected with a semen sample.
Hexachlorocyclohexane isomers may be detected with a semen sample.
Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Contributing articles to wiseGEEK is just one of Karyn’s many professional endeavors. She is also a magazine writer and columnist, mainly for health-related publications, as well as the author of four books. Karyn lives in New York’s Catskill Mountain region and specializes in topics about green living and botanical medicine.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: