I’ve heard that conventional lice treatments contain toxic chemicals

I’ve heard that conventional lice treatments contain toxic chemicals. Are safer, more natural alternatives available?

—Dwayne Newton, Charleston, SC

The National Pediculosis Association (NPA) advises consumers to be cautious with conventional lice treatments, including shampoos and lotions, since they contain toxic, and in some cases carcinogenic, pesticides. The NPA says that people with epilepsy, asthma, brain tumors, cancer or AIDS, and pregnant or nursing women, should completely avoid any chemical lice medications. Further, the NPA is calling on the medical community to address the current “resistance crisis” of lice becoming increasingly resistant to pesticide treatments.

Fortunately, several pesticide-free alternative products are now available that help get rid of lice and nits (lice eggs) safely and effectively. The NPA endorses a comb called the LiceMeister (around $10), which has closely spaced, stainless steel teeth that glide easily through hair, collecting lice and nits. The comb is safe but the process is quite time consuming as it works best when used daily during infestation and regularly thereafter. Well-In-Hand Herbals” Non-Toxic Nit Kit ($18.99) includes an easy-to-use herbal formula that smothers and kills lice. This product, which won’t dry hair out, is made from olive, canola and essential oils and has a fresh, natural scent. The Nit Kit also comes with a fine-toothed metal comb and 5x magnifier to help find the unwanted insects.

CONTACTS: National Pediculosis Association, (781) 449-NITS, www.headlice.org; Well-In-Hand, (434) 384-7774, www.wellinhand.com.