Monday, January 20, 2014

Mothball toxicity -- Fact or Fiction?

Do you ever get tired of being mocked for your green and healthy lifestyle? I sure do. No matter how much I don't want to feel this way, I'm still hurt when people make snide remarks about me or the advice I give.

Today, when someone posted something on FB about mothballs, I mentioned how they were toxic and someone else commented that they were pretty sure they weren't going to eat them. Nice. You know, just because you may choose to surround yourself with toxins and carcinogens, doesn't mean that those of us who are trying to avoid those things are wrong... or crazy. Don't think I don't see the rolling of the eyes as my daughters and I try to protect our families from the dangerous chemicals being practically shoved down our throats on a daily basis.

Yes, we are cloth diapering crazies. We believe in protecting the babies from the toxic chemicals in disposable diapers. We also have problems with the whole just-toss-it-in-the-trash mentality. We care about the future of the planet. And the health, now and in the future, of the children. If, and there's no way of knowing it right now, the chemicals in disposable diapers cause infertility, I certainly wouldn't want my kids or grandkids blaming me sometime in the future, for diapering them in the very toxins that ended up rendering them infertile. You know what I mean?

I have a friend who always takes organic milk with her for her children when she goes to visit her in-laws. The result? She has to hear, "Oh, here she comes with her own milk. I guess we're all going to die from drinking our milk." Seriously? Why is she wrong for trying to protect her children from the antibiotics and hormones in conventional milk? 

Since when did it become unpopular to try to do what's best for our families? If that includes limiting as much exposure to toxins as possible, so be it! And the fact of the matter is that moth balls are toxic. If I didn't care about others, I just would keep my mouth shut. But I do care. It's not some silly tree hugging bandwagon I've hopped upon as my pet project for the time being. 

So, if you've read this far into my rant, and you're wondering exactly what it is that's so bad about mothballs, here it is: they contain the chemicals paradichlorobenzene (PCDB) and naphthalene, known carcinogens. Granted, some of the newer ones no longer contain naphthalene (due to its flammability and toxicity), they still contain PCDB. 

They are also extremely toxic to pets, and not just through ingestion. Keep in mind, it's not eating the mothballs that repels the moths -- it's the vapors that keep them away. 

According to

The chemicals in mothballs can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or absorbed through the stomach and intestines. Cats are more sensitive to the toxic effects of mothballs, but dogs are more likely to ingest mothballs. Naphthalene mothballs, or old-fashioned mothballs, are considered the most toxic type of mothball. Modern PDB mothballs are less toxic but still can cause illness, especially when ingested. Clinical signs of mothball poisoning include vomiting, mothball-scented breath, pale or brown gums, weakness or lethargy, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and organ failure (e.g., liver, kidneys).

Gee, why don't we all load up on them? Just make sure to keep the vet's number on speed dial!  

According to the EPA:
  • Acute exposure of humans to naphthalene by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact is associated with hemolytic anemia, damage to the liver, and, in infants, neurological damage.  Symptoms of acute exposure include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malaise, confusion, anemia, jaundice, convulsions, and coma. 
  • Cataracts have been reported in humans acutely exposed to naphthalene by inhalation and ingestion.  Cataracts have also been reported in animals following acute oral exposure. 
Even without naphthalene, breathing in vapors from mothballs can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, respiratory issues, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

There are a variety of non-toxic alternatives to mothballs. Cedar oil, often infused in blocks of wood, is a good deterrent. Also, moths are repelled by the following herbs and essential oils: 
  • cloves
  • fresh rosemary
  • lavender
  • eucalyptus
  • cinnamon
  • sweet woodruff
  • bay leaves
You can make your own sachets or shop in your local health food stores for ready made ones. 

Despite what your grandmother or other well-meaning, but misinformed, friend might have to say, you do not have to expose your family to toxins in order to keep moths away from your clothes, blankets and linens. Protect your belongings and your family and pets... the natural way. Stand firm and stand tall, my friends. We're not wackos. Just people who care.

Keeping it green and healthy,

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