I just went out by my landlord’s shed looking for my cat. The stench from mothballs was incredible. And there lay my kitty next to the shed inhaling those noxious fumes.
So, I asked my landlord why he has mothballs in his shed. He said there were so many mice in there, he had to do something. Mothballs for mice? Are they also "miceballs"? I don’t think so, and even if they were, they’re still nasty, noxious poisons that I don’t want to smell. I don’t want my cat to inhale them, I don’t want my landlord’s dog to inhale them, I don’t want the foxes that have been outside doing their weird scream inhaling them.
The National Pesticide Information Center says that mothballs, flakes, crystals, or bars are all insecticides. (This website very clearly states that mothballs are not snake repellent—so somewhere out there, people are thinking that mothballs are actually "snakeballs.") They are solid, but slowly release a toxic gas to kill moths and other insects. Mothballs in the U.S. are either primarily naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. They’re meant to be in enclosed containers to trap the insecticidal vapors and kill any moths or moth eggs or larvae on fabric. If mothballs are in the open (like a drafty shed), they can harm people, pets, and wildlife if they touch them, breathe the vapors, or eat them. It is illegal to use mothballs in any way other than those for the intended use of fabric protection. (Would someone please come arrest my landlord! Maybe he’ll lower the rent. Okay, I just called and talked to him, and he was very reasonable about cleaning up the shed. I will take the mothballs to a hazardous waste collection.)
Naphthalene exposure can cause headache, nausea, dizziness, and breathing difficulties. Eating just one mothball containing naphthalene can damage a young child’s red blood cells. Just the length of the word “Paradichlorobenzene” should scare you! In humans, this chemical is distributed in the blood, fat, and breast milk. While the World Health Organization considers paradichlorobenzene to be a possible carcinogen, the Environmental Protection Agency says it is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has found relationships between mothball use to several other chronic diseases such as Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. I don't care what the EPA says, insecticide is poison, and it can't be a healthy thing to breathe.
OK, this is important: if you can smell mothballs, you are inhaling the insecticide. This can cause long-term health affects. Place these deadly orbs in an airproof container like a can with a lid and take them to a hazardous waste collection for proper disposal.
Alternatives to Mothballs
Cedar smells lovely, but it does not keep the moths away. Cedar chests only keep moths away from your cloths because you close the chest lid to keep the moths out.
If you're concerned about moths, place your natural fiber clothing in airtight containers or bags. Moths don’t go for synthetics. (I don’t either, by the way.) But they do go for natural/synthetic blends and stains from animal sources—like blood, gravy, sweat, so don't store dirty clothes. For existing infestations, vacuum out drawers, closets, and upholstered furniture with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) air filter vacuum cleaner. Lint and pet or human hair that has been undisturbed can be breeding areas for moths—a really good reason to keep a clean home.
And remember, these are mothballs--they're not "miceballs," "snakeballs," "deerballs," "slugballs"...they're mothballs. Repeat after me...........And stop snickering about all those balls--what are you, 12?