The dangers of indoor chemical pollution
Andrew Segal and his young family had birds in the attic of their suburban Atlanta home. They called in a local pest control company, whose solution was to sprinkle about 250 mothballs around in the attic. The mothballs got rid of the birds, but they also ran the family out of the house. Andrew remembers, "It didn't matter where you were in the house, the smell was all over the place. My wife started having severe headaches. I had really lost my appetite."
But it was their baby that worried them. She was two-weeks old and premature, and her crib sat dangerously close to the attic stairs. The Segals read the back of the mothball box, which stated: "May be fatal if inhaled." Andrew contacted the Georgia Poison Control Center. "They started telling me all the potential problems of respiratory distress, nausea, vomiting, and prolonged exposure can cause kidney failure and other things. And I'm thinking, from mothballs?"
The Segals not only had the mothballs removed, but found it necessary to replace all of the insulation in the attic, which had absorbed the odor. Furthermore, some of the birds that were supposed to be run off never made it out of the attic; the mothballs had killed them.
"If it would kill the birds," Andrew Segal said, "it can't be doing wonderful things for people who are breathing it." 
MOTH BALLS WERE DEVELOPED as a way to deter moths from nesting and feeding on woolen clothing, primarily in sealed places such as closets. A few of the white, sweet-smelling moth balls would be placed in closets, and seeing how effective they worked, despite precautions by the product manufacturers not to use the product other than instructed, many people expanded use of moth balls by sprinkling them throughout the inside of their homes as well as outside to repel rodents and snakes.
The key ingredient in moth balls is naphthalene, a widely-used and highly-manufactured chemical. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified naphthalene as a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemical.  A PBT does not readily break down in the environment, does not easily metabolize, and may be hazardous to human health or the environment. The EPA has also classified naphthalene as a high priority PBT chemical.
Naphthalene enters the human body through inhalation or passing through the skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may damage or destroy red blood cells. Some symptoms include fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and blood in the urine.  What mothers-to-be inhale, so does baby: the developing bodies of unborn children are especially susceptible to naphthalene poisoning.
Naphthalene is an incredibly dangerous chemical. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a listing of chemicals and their dangers required by the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OHSA) to be included by any "chemical manufacturer or importer." MSDS's on naphthalene warn that naphthalene is harmful if swallowed or inhaled, causes irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and may affect liver, kidney, blood and central nervous system. Furthermore, MSDS's state that inhalation of dust or vapors can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, extensive sweating and disorientation. The predominant reaction is delayed intravascular hemolysis (the dissolution of red blood cells) with symptoms of anemia, fever, jaundice, and kidney or liver damage.
Another key ingredient in some brands of moth balls is para dichlorobenzene (PDB). According to a chemical profile listing of PDB conducted by Cornell University, PDB is has an acute (high) toxicity, and people who were exposed to PDB to a prolonged length of time developed anorexia, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, as well as death. 
As stated previously, naphthalene does not break down in the environment; moth balls used outside wear away to seep right into the ground water. Since water treatment plants do not remove PBT's, the use of moth balls outside contributes to a poisoning of our drinking water. Furthermore, water used on farms and vegetable gardens may include PBT's.
Not only is naphthalene hazardous, it is one of the most unnecessary chemicals manufactured. There isn't anything that naphthalene accomplishes that we cannot do without. What began as an effective way to kill moths has blossomed into a widely-used means of repelling other pests.
The very fact that naphthalene is so effective on moths as well as repelling rodents and snakes demonstrates the mere fact that it is a deadly chemical. If it has such an effect on pests, it goes without saying that it is equally dangerous to humans.
If you have moth balls in your house, get rid of them. If your business, school or day care uses moth balls, have them discontinue their use; do not continue to be subjected -- yourself as well as others – especially children – to this poisoning. Moth Balls, however, shouldn't merely be tossed into a garbage can, but need to be sealed in a plastic bag, and the package double-sealed such as setting it inside a coffee can that can be taped tightly shut. It's not only your responsibility to protect yourself from moth ball poisoning, but others as well:.
 Mothball Danger, www.fox5atlanta.com , December, 2005
 www.Scorecard.org, Naphthalene, Chemical Profile
 Para dichlorobenzene (PDB) Chemical Profile 1/85
Thank you for the information above, but putting the mothballs in in double-sealed plastic bags and tossing the entire package in the landfill (garbage) seems counterproductive to the intent of the message. What else can be done to 'get rid of' these little white balls of poison?
- L.R., May 2011
North Vancouver, BC, Canada