‘Miracle cure’ for head lice is poison

05 March 2014

Despite the fact a Pretoria man was arrested in February for the sale and distribution of a substance for the oral treatment of head lice in children, the substance, known as Beatle Juice, is still being distributed countrywide to parents and schools.

According to Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, a poisons specialist of the Griffon Poison Centre, the substance is extremely dangerous, especially to children. “It’s an insecticide used on citrus trees and vegetables. The main ingredient, fipronil, is also used in Frontline, which is used to control fleas in dogs and cats. But the concentration in Frontline is much lower than the concentration we found in Beatle Juice. Five millilitres of the chemical is enough to make a child with a weak immune system seriously ill or even kill him.”

Beatle Juice is handily packed and sold: in a syringe and with a sweet for the child to enjoy after taking their dose. The dose is 0,1 ml for preschoolers and 0,2 ml for older children.

According to warrant officer Jacques Oosthuizen, who arrested the man, the poison was distributed quickly and sold to parents and schools.  “A mother from Durban told us she didn’t want to give her child the product, but the school insisted and said she could pay later. She refused. She says one child sat and jerked all day at school after taking Beatle Juice.” Other children were apparently so sick they couldn’t attend school. It’s alleged that even preschoolers were given the poison.

According to police spokesperson Wanda Olivier the problem has been encountered mainly with parents and schools in parts of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Middelburg and Durban. Oosthuizen has confirmed there are also distributors in Cape Town.

The effects of the poison, which is a neurotoxin that affects the nervous system, are nausea, dizziness and shakiness.

“Never give your child anything that you can’t obtain from a chemist, a doctor or a recognised dealer,” Dr Verdoorn warns. Parents with queries and those who believe Beatle Juice is being used in their area should contact him on 082-446-8946.

-Dalena Theron

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