Are Moth Balls Poisonous to Humans?

Written by nora huynh kitchen
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There are two types of moth balls: those that contain naphthalene and those that contain paradichlorobenzene (PDB). Both these chemicals can be dangerous, especially with prolonged or high exposure.

Hemolytic Anemia

Naphthalene moth ball exposure can kill red blood cells, causing hemolytic anaemia till the body is able to replace them. Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, restlessness, fever, or jaundice, and severe cases can result in kidney or liver damage.

Other Reactions to Naphthalene

Other known reactions to naphthalene include skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation, headache, sweating, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and blood in urine. Naphthalene has also been connected to nasal cancer.


PDB has been shown to cause cancer in other animals. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists short-term reactions as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and eye and respiratory tract irritation. Long-term effects include anaemia, loss of appetite, skin lesions, liver damage and changes in blood.

Moth Ball Use

Moth Balls are not necessarily dangerous when used as directed, so use moth balls only in well-sealed containers and wash or air clothes well after storage. Take special care with newborns and young children, as they can show signs of poisoning merely from exposure to clothes stored with moth balls.


Moth balls with illegal levels of naphthalene do sometimes come into the country. Make sure moth ball packages have EPA-approval on their labels.

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