Naphthalene is a poisonous ingredient that appears as a white substance that is strong-smelling and is a product of things burning. It is found in car exhaust and smoke from cigarettes and forest fires.
Most of us know naphthalene as moth balls, which are used to repel insects. It’s actually recognized as a pesticide since 1948. And just like other pesticides, naphthalene is not safe for humans, especially when overexposed to the chemical.
Why is Naphthalene Dangerous?
As mentioned, naphthalene is poisonous and when poisoned, it can destroy or change the red blood cells. As a result, they will not be able to carry oxygen, which can lead to organ damage. Naphthalene poisoning often occurs in children who accidentally ingest moth balls, but this is not to say that adults are safe. In fact, there have been documented poisoning in adults due to occupational exposure and surprisingly even abuse with some reported cases such as:
- A 10-year-old boy who inhaled moth balls for eight hours every night for two months. He had progressive portal hypertension and later died because of liver failure.
- A 26-year-old pregnant woman sucked on moth balls during her third trimester and developed anemia.
- Another woman, 19, smelled, sucked, and ate moth balls during her pregnancy became anemic as well.
- A boy, 15, sucked on moth balls too and had stomach pains and vomiting. He was diagnosed with anemia.
Symptoms of naphthalene poisoning include stomach pain, but this usually takes two days to appear, along with diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Other people develop a fever and the symptoms get worse over time, which may include:
- Low blood pressure
- Tachycardia or increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Urinary problems, including low urine output, unable to urinate, pain and sometimes blood in urine
Some people end up in a coma after getting poisoned with naphthalene. People who have glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency experience worse effects. It is important to bring the person to the hospital right away in case of naphthalene poisoning. At the emergency room, he or she may undergo some tests, such as blood and urine tests. The vital signs will also be monitored, which include blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and breathing rate.
People who have eaten moth balls that contain naphthalene may be compelled to vomit. There are other treatments that may be performed, such as using activated charcoal to stop the poison from getting absorbed in the digestive system.