Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

Healthy Begins Here

with Healthy Child Healthy World

Important:

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Hide

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Are Mothballs Safe?

Asian baby on blanket

iStockphoto

A Baby’s Death Prompts a Call for a Ban

A few weeks ago, pediatricians in Australia called for a ban on a common ingredient in mothballs after it was linked to one baby’s death and brain damage in two others. The primary ingredient of concern is naphthalene, which causes a breakdown of red blood cells in children with a genetic condition called G6PD deficiency.

What are mothballs?

Mothballs are a pesticide product that contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene as active ingredients. Both of these chemicals are toxic fumigants (which means they volatilize into the air) and must be present in high concentrations to be effective. This is the problem. Concentrations high enough to be effective for pest control can be dangerous for anyone exposed to them.

Mothballs can seriously impair indoor air quality. In fact, the odor of mothballs can be detected at a few parts per billion in the air. (One part per billion is about several drops of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.)

What are the potential health impacts?

  • Symptoms of exposure to naphthalene include headache, nausea, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may damage or destroy some of your red blood cells. This condition is called hemolytic anemia. Some symptoms of hemolytic anemia are fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness, and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and a yellow color to the skin. Based on the results from animal studies, the Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS) concluded that naphthalene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.
  • Paradichlorobenzene exposure has been linked to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, eye and nasal passage irritation, and dermal irritation. If a pet eats a mothball made of paradichlorobenzene, they may have vomiting, tremors, and/or abdominal pain. Paradichlorobenzene may also cause kidney and liver damage in pets.The World Health Organization (WHO) considers paradichlorobenzene possibly carcinogenic to humans based on studies with mice.

Safer Alternatives

The most important point to remember about clothes moths is that soiled cloth is much more likely to become infested.

Here are some tips from the Oregon State University Extension Services:

  • While cedar chips or balls smell wonderful, they do nothing to repel clothes moths.
  • The best way to protect your at-risk (animal-fiber) clothing from clothes moths is by keeping moths out. To protect these garments from clothes moths, first clean all of the clothing according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Then place the clean clothing in airtight containers.
  • For existing infestations of clothes moths, you must do more. Vacuum out drawers and closets using a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Vacuum all furniture and other places that provide food sources such as lint, pet hair, and human hair. Lint and hair that have been undisturbed for a long time are prime breeding grounds for clothes moths. After vacuuming, dispose of the vacuum bag promptly. To safely eliminate the moths, try a non-toxic clothes moth trap. These disposable traps use natural insect pheromones to lure moths inside, where they are caught on sticky surfaces.
  • For stored clothing that is not kept in airtight containers, place the clothing in the dryer or in the sun once or twice a month to destroy larvae. Shake the clothes out or brush them before putting them back in the drawer or on the hanger. This will help dislodge remaining eggs and larvae.

And, remember to warn family and other caregivers about the risks of mothballs. In the incidents in Australia, babies were wrapped in blankets that had been stored with mothballs. Grandma might think it would be sweet to wrap her new grandbaby in a family heirloom that’s been in storage for decades — but make sure it’s properly cleaned first!

If you have questions about mothballs or any pesticide-related topic, please call National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378 (seven days per week, 6:30am-4:30pm PST), or email at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Interested in more laundry tips and recipes for safer cleaners? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and receive an exclusive printable guide! (If you already receive our newsletter, please still sign up here to receive the guide. You won’t get duplicate emails from us.)

The opinions expressed in the WebMD Blogs are of the author and the author alone. They do not reflect the opinions of WebMD and they have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. WebMD Blogs are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on WebMD. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Posted by: Janelle Sorensen at 11:50 am

Comments

Leave a comment

Subscribe & Stay Informed

Parenting and Children's Health

Get the Parenting & Children's Health newsletter and get useful parenting tips and health news you need to keep your little ones happy & healthy.

Archives

WebMD Health News