Using mothballs to keep clothing moths out of your closet?
These products usually contain as their active ingredient either naphthalene or para-dichlorobenzene. These chemicals sublimate from solids directly into gases, killing moths and larvae with their fumes. Human health concerns exist for both chemicals:
Eating or breathing naphthalene has been connected to:
Hemolytic anemia (a condition involving the breakdown of red blood cells), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney damage, jaundice (yellowish skin or eyes), liver damage, and cataracts (cloudy spots in the eyes).
Cancer has not been attributed to naphthalene exposure in humans or animals. Some infants whose mothers were exposed to naphthalene during pregnancy developed blood problems (hemolytic anemia). Although there is some information about the effects that occur in humans from breathing or eating naphthalene, the levels of naphthalene at which these effects can occur are not known.
The effects of skin contact with naphthalene or 2-methylnaphthalene have not been carefully studied. There have been several medical reports showing that babies dressed in clothing that had been stored in naphthalene mothballs developed liver problems and hemolytic anemia.
PARA-DICHLOROBENZENE (or 1,4-DICHLOROBENZENE)
There is limited evidence that 1,4-dichlorobenzene can damage a developing fetus. Exposure in adults can damage the lungs, liver, kidneys, and blood cells, causing anemia; it can also cause swelling of the eyes, hands, and feet. It can damage the nervous system, causing weakness, trembling, and numbness in the limbs. It may cause a skin allergy, leading to itching and rash. Higher levels of the chemical in air can cause headaches, nausea, clumsiness, slurred speech, and dizziness.
Be careful when opening trunks or other closed containers where mothballs have been stored, and try not to inhale the chemicals. Let mothball-treated clothing air out for a while before you wear it. Rather than use mothballs, try cedar in the future, in the form of blocks, shavings, or oil. It is a safer (and much more fragrant!) method of controlling moths.
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