Moth balls are a pest-control method used to repel or kill moths and moth larvae. Moth balls are highly toxic. They are made from hazardous chemicals including: napthalene, paradichlorobenzene and camphor. The volatile nature of moth balls means that, over time, these pest deterrents convert from a solid to a gas. The gas emanating from moth balls is associated with numerous health issues, including anaemia, kidney failure and ultimately death. For this reason, moth ball disposal requires special care and may need assistance from hazardous waste handlers.
Open windows and doors in the room or space where moth balls are being stored. Ensure the room is well-ventilated.
Examine the space, area or container where moth balls were placed. If absolutely no signs of moth balls remain, proceed to step 3. If moth balls were held in sealed containers or bags or if any signs of moth balls remain, refer to section 2.
Rinse area where moth balls were once present, including containers. Take precautions undertaking this task, including wearing gloves and/or mask, to avoid risks associated with napthalene, paradichlorobenzene and camphor. Used water can be placed directly in the drain. Ensure it is flushed down with plenty of clean water.
Place any empty and rinsed mothball containers for standard waste collection.
Collect and double-bag any moth balls left outside of containers. Again, ensure the room is well-ventilated and take precautions, including gloves and masks, as necessary.
Call your local wastewater treatment plant to see whether they undertake moth ball disposal. Some sites use bacteria which can make moth balls safe. This is a good solution for moth balls which are stored in bags or sealed containers.
Contact your local licensed hazardous waste handler to arrange collection of any remaining bagged or sealed moth balls. Alternatively, dispose of these as part of your area's household hazardous waste collection program.
- Dry-clean any clothing which comes into contact with moth balls to prevent risk of inhalation or irritation of eyes or nose.
- Use natural alternatives to moth balls, such as dried lavender, cedar chips or white peppercorns. These carry no health hazards and can be disposed of easily.
- Keep all moth balls out of reach of children. According to the Washington Toxics Coalition, eating just one moth ball can kill a child in less than 60 minutes.
- It is imperative that moth balls are kept in enclosed spaces away from both pets and humans. Long exposure to large amounts of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene may cause cataracts, liver damage or kidney damage.
- Short-term exposure to napthalene or paradichlorobenzene can cause headaches nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.