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How Much Exposure to Mothballs is Dangerous?


Mothballs are commonly used to protect clothing and fabrics from moth damage. While they serve their purpose effectively, it’s crucial to understand the potential dangers associated with mothball exposure. In this article, we will explore the risks posed by mothballs, the chemicals they contain, and how much exposure is considered dangerous.

Understanding Mothballs

Mothballs are small balls or tablets typically made from either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Naphthalene-based mothballs are more widely used and have a distinct, strong odor. Paradichlorobenzene-based mothballs are less pungent and often preferred for their milder scent. It’s important to note the composition of mothballs as it directly influences their potential hazards.

Potential Dangers of Mothball Exposure

  1. Chemicals Found in Mothballs and their Toxicity

    • Naphthalene: This chemical is a known carcinogen and can cause anemia, liver damage, and neurological effects if ingested or inhaled in large amounts.
    • Paradichlorobenzene: While less toxic than naphthalene, prolonged exposure to this chemical may still cause respiratory irritation, dizziness, and headaches.
  2. Health Risks Associated with Mothball Exposure

    • Inhalation: Breathing in mothball fumes can irritate the respiratory system, leading to coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.
    • Skin Contact: Direct contact with mothballs may cause skin irritation, rashes, and allergic reactions in some individuals.
    • Ingestion: Accidental ingestion of mothballs can result in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and potentially severe health complications.
  3. Short-term and Long-term Effects on Human Health

    • Short-term Effects: Immediate symptoms of mothball exposure may include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye or throat irritation. These symptoms typically subside once the exposure is eliminated.
    • Long-term Effects: Prolonged exposure to mothballs, especially in poorly ventilated areas, can lead to chronic respiratory issues, liver damage, and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

FAQ about Mothball Exposure

  1. What are the Symptoms of Mothball Exposure?

    • Symptoms can vary depending on the individual, but common signs include headaches, dizziness, nausea, respiratory irritation, skin rashes, and eye irritation.
  2. How Much Exposure to Mothballs is Considered Dangerous?

    • While there is no specific threshold, it is generally advised to minimize exposure to mothballs as much as possible due to their potential health risks.
  3. Can Mothballs Cause Allergic Reactions?

    • Yes, some individuals may be allergic to the chemicals found in mothballs, leading to skin rashes, itching, and respiratory distress.
  4. Are Mothballs Harmful to Pets?

    • Yes, pets are more sensitive to the chemicals in mothballs. Ingestion or inhalation of mothball fumes can cause serious health issues in animals, including liver damage and respiratory problems.
  5. How to Minimize the Risks of Mothball Exposure?

    • Store mothballs in airtight containers to reduce fume release.
    • Use alternative methods, such as cedar chips or lavender sachets, to deter moths without the use of toxic chemicals.
    • Ensure proper ventilation in areas where mothballs are placed.
    • Keep mothballs away from children and pets.


In conclusion, understanding the potential dangers of mothball exposure is crucial for safeguarding our health and well-being. The chemicals found in mothballs, such as naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, can pose various health risks, ranging from respiratory irritation to long-term complications. It is recommended to minimize exposure to mothballs and explore safer alternatives to protect our belongings from moth damage. By taking necessary precautions, we can mitigate the potential harm associated with mothball use and ensure a safer environment for ourselves and our loved ones.

Remember, knowledge is key when it comes to protecting ourselves from potential hazards. Stay informed, stay safe!

Learn more about how to protect your clothing and fabrics from moth damage.


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