Head lice are terrible things – when I went to school, if you were unlucky enough to have them, you were pretty well outlawed by the other kids. Some children affected by head lice have been treated with all sorts of nasty chemicals or their heads have been shaved.
While the head lice stigma appears to subside, head lice has not subsided, and no environmentally harmful chemicals have been used for treatment.
Some head lice (and shampoos) contain lindane. Lindane is a poison that remains in the environment and gets into the water after rinsing.
The US EPA classifies lindane as a bioaccumulative and toxic chemical and belongs to the same family of chemicals as DDT and PCB. It can be absorbed through the skin and attack the central nervous system. It is also known to cause liver and kidney damage. Therefore, it is a good idea to check your lice treatment for this chemical.
Nothing is as good as monitoring to prevent head lice, but tea tree oil is an excellent alternative to environmentally harmful chemicals. A cap of tea tree oil poured into a spray bottle and then filled with water is said to startle head lice and keep them away.
Not only is this a more environmentally friendly option, but since tea tree oil only costs a few dollars a bottle and is useful in many other applications, it's a much cheaper alternative. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo as a simple, ongoing preventive treatment.
Another alternative is to put a tablespoon of hair conditioner with a small amount of hot water and 10 drops of lavender essential oil in a spray bottle and then fill up with water. Spray your children's hair daily, followed by a quick brush.
By the way, head lice combs can be quite expensive – try a flea comb that you can buy at a pet store. You will find that it is a much cheaper, yet equally effective alternative.