Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

HIGHLIGHTS

Open

REAL POSSIBILITIES

AARP Real Possibilities
Car buying made easy with the AARP Auto Buying Program

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 

CHECK OUT OUR
NEW IPAD APP!

ATM Mobile App for iPhone and Ipad

Enjoy the best of AARP’s award-winning publications

on the go with the new

AARP ePubs iPad App

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

Commented

share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

Health Beat — Take This

Mothballs Are Unsafe for Keepsakes

Those toxic fumes are harmful to children

That darling baby blanket you have wrapped in mothballs to save for your future grand (or even great-grand) kids? Bad idea. Really bad idea.

Mothballs may look all cute and harmless — just like white, smelly marbles — but they're really little chunks of dangerous pesticide. Storing treasured baby clothes in mothballs can be lethal, say leading pediatricians from Australia and New Zealand. The doctors say the fumes could lead to severe brain damage in babies and even death from the insecticide naphthalene used in mothballs.

A letter last week in the Medical Journal of Australia signed by four directors of neonatal units in Australia and New Zealand calls for a ban on naphthalene, the chemical that gives mothballs their distinctive odor. Although Aussie package labels warn against wrapping young children in blankets stored in mothballs, the Down Under doctors say these have been inadequate in protecting children in their country.

At least one infant death in the past three years and more than 100 reports to Australian poison control centers of children affected by mothball fumes were cited by the group. Inhaling mothball fumes can severely damage red blood cells.

The European Union, in 2008, banned products such as mothballs made with naphthalene. Five years earlier, the European Chemicals Bureau linked naphthalene with deaths in babies and other health risks.

A safer way to keep the bugs away from heirloom clothes and blankets would be to use camphor, lavender or sandalwood.

Many parents (and grandparents) don't realize the harm that mothballs can pose to children who inhale the harmful fumes, says Dr. William Tarnow-Mordi, M.D., of the WINNER Centre for Newborn Research at the University of Sydney.

"The safest course is prevention, which would have to be a total ban of naphthalene in mothballs,'' he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Although package labels in both the United States and Australia caution that mothballs should be used only in airtight containers, Tarnow-Mordi says the mandatory warnings are insufficient, and some American researchers agree that mothball labeling is dangerously vague.

The labels don't specify how long the clothing or blankets need to air out — or if they should be laundered — in order to get rid of the fumes. The danger is that "consumers might take mothballed clothing and wear it immediately" or even "air it indoors, further contributing to human exposure" to the toxic fumes, said Linda M. Hall of the California Environmental Protection Agency at last year's American Chemical Society annual meeting.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Medical
Resources

Symptom Checker

Enter your medical symptoms to find out possible causes and treatments. Read

Health Encyclopedia

Find the information you need about health conditions, symptoms and medical procedures. Read

Health Screenings and Vaccines

What screenings and shots do you need? Read

Health blog

Discounts & Benefits

bring health To Life-Visual MD

AARP Bookstore

AARP Bookstore - woman reaches for book on bookshelf

VISIT THE HEALTH SECTION

Find titles on brain health, drug alternatives and losing weight. Do