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"The future will depend on our wisdom not to replace one poison with another."
National Pediculosis Association®, Inc.

photo courtesy NOAA

Environmental Fate

Drinking Water Standards: Mclg: 0.2 ppb Mcl: 0.2 ppb

Lindane Pollutes the Water

Lindane products, such as shampoos and creams, are rinsed off after use into the public sewers. Even after treatment, lindane persists and passes into creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Lindane is toxic in the water even in very small amounts. In fact, a single treatment of head lice or scabies with lindane pollutes 6 million gallons of water, the equivalent of 300 swimming pools. Lindane lasts for a long time in the environment, where it can contaminate the tissues of fish and other animals. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has declared lindane to be a persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemical. 
Ann Heil LACSD.  

The average cost to remove lindane from a single head lice or scabies treatment out of wastewater at a treatment plant is estimated at $4000.


Nowhere from deep oceans to the polar ice caps is free from industrial pollution and chemical contamination. Now, add mountain peaks to the list.

In the first study of its kind, Canadian researchers found that snow pack in some of the tallest and most remote mountains of Western Canada contain unusually high amounts of industrial pollution, pesticides, and other organochlorine compounds. It is unclear how much, if any, of these compounds find their way into drinking water derived from snow runoff. The results from this recent study are published in the October 8 issue of Nature.

Several of the compounds, namely lindane:

Also see:
Lindane In Water
Persistent Organic Pollutants
Lindane in the North Sea

The Laws of Ecology: "All things are interconnected. Everything goes
somewhere. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Nature bats last."
by Ernest Callenbach

Differential Toxicity and Environmental Fates of Hexachlorocyclohexane Isomers

Willett, K.L.; Ulrich, E.M.; Hites, R.A.
published Environ. Sci. Technol. 1998, V32, pp 2197-2207

The differential environmental fates and toxicites of the various hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) isomers including lindane and isomers in the technical mixture will be the focus of this review. HCHs are one of the most widely used and most readily detected organochlorine pesticides in environmental samples. The relatively high volatility of HCH has led to global transport, even into formerly pristine locations such as the Arctic. Certain HCHs cause central nervous system, reproductive, and endocrine damage. Because gamma-HCH is rapidly metabolized, the beta-HCH isomer is consistently found in higher concentrations in human fat, blood, and breast milk. In contrast, alpha- and gamma-HCH are the most prevalent isomers in soil, water, and air samples. The ratio of alpha- to gamma- isomers can be used to track global transport of HCHs. A new area of HCH research focuses on the selective degradation of the two alpha-HCH enantiomers in various environmental matrices. These HCH issues and recommendations for future HCH research are presented in this review.

Pollution rides into the Arctic on the winds. When winter's bone-chilling polar air masses reach south into the U.S., Europe and Asia, they do more than close schools and strand motorists. These weather fronts also collect toxic air pollution from industrial and urban centers and then transport these poisons north to the land of the great white bears. For example, the amount of PCBs falling from the Arctic sky in snow, rain and dust are comparable to amounts falling on the Great Lakes. The amount of the chlorinated pesticide lindane dumped from the Arctic sky, however, is about 100 times higher than in the Great Lakes region.[86] Reasons for this surprising finding are unclear.

Lindane: A Review of Toxicity and Environmental Fate  

(Ottawa: November 24, 1999) World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF) today called on Health Minister Allan Rock to ban lindane, a persistent pesticide known for its toxicity to wildlife and humans. In support of its call, WWF submitted a comprehensive report, Lindane: A Review of Toxicity and Environmental Fate, documenting lindane’s hazards and presence in the environment, food, wildlife and human tissues. The report highlights the particular vulnerability of the Arctic to lindane.

Given the strength of existing evidence about lindane’s risks, WWF also urged Mr. Rock to quickly conclude the "Special Review" of the pesticide which was initiated in December 1998. "There is no need for a prolonged process to gather more data," Julia Langer, Director of WWF Canada’s Wildlife Toxicology Program, said. "All the literature shows that lindane is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Every person, animal and ecosystem, especially in the Arctic, contains lindane. This adds up to an unacceptable risk. But we can bring these levels down by banning lindane."

Lindane: A Review of Toxicity and Environmental Fate, and a backgrounder on lindane’s toxicity, alternatives and regulatory status are available on request. Please email

Lindane, from Cornfields to the Atmosphere

If pollutants have a fairly long atmospheric lifetime (> 2 days) because of their physicochemical properties, they may be transported by air masses over long distances. The annual time series of alpha-HCH and gamma-HCH and their ratio (Figure 2) provides us with information about North American sources of lindane measured in the atmosphere at Villeroy, since lindane does not have the same profile as the alpha-HCH isomer. In addition, back-trajectories (925 mb) of air masses (Figure 3) in the periods before, during and after the highest measured ratio of gamma-HCH and alpha-HCH (on May 20, 1992) at Villeroy show that the source of lindane is primarily local (along the St Lawrence River valley), since these isomers had travelled relatively little in the five days prior to the period of maximum concentration. The fact that the atmospheric lifetime of lindane is about four days supports this result. Lindane measured in the atmosphere may be related to agricultural activities, namely corn seeding.
DEA/Scientific Services, Quebec Region
Copyright © 1997-98, Environment Canada.

Lindane, the y-isomer of hexachlorocyclohexane, is a colorless, crystalline solid which is soluble in water.

Lindane: Half Life
Soil - 330 - 5765 hrs based upon hydrolysis half-life
Groundwater 142 -5765 hrs based on hydrolysis half-life
Aerobic biodegradation (unacclimated)- 744 - 9912 hours based on aerobic
soil die-away study data
Anaerobic biodegradation (unacclimated) 142 - 734 hours based on anaerobic
flooded soil die-away study data

Soil - 1368 - 12720 hrs based upon aerobic soil die-away test
Groundwater 2736 - 25440 hrs based on estiamted unacclimated aqueous aerobic
biodegradation half-life
Aerobic biodegradation (unacclimated)- 1368-12720 hours based on aerobic
soil die-away test 10-30oC
Anaerobic biodegradation (unacclimated) 5472-50880 hours based on estimated
unacclimated aqueous biodegradation half-life

Source: Howard et al (1991). Handbook of Environmental Degradation Rates
Lewis Publishers

Environmental Fate Evaluation of DDT, Chlordane and Lindane

The Effects Of Environmental Pollutants On North American Temperate Forests

Biological Markers of Water Pollution
With specific reference to glutathione conjugation

A web-based resource on contaminant analysis techniques, organochlorine contaminant properties and sources, and the impact and extent of contamination on Blue Whales in the St. Lawrence seaway, Metcalfe lab  
ERS Department at Trent University, Canada

Environmental Toxicology Data Sheet: LINDANE



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