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Could Mothballed Sofa Be Making His Family Sick?

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Q. I picked up a couch of my Grandma's from my uncle. He'd kept it in the garage with a ton of mothballs.

It fits in my living room, but I notice I've been feeling weird lately. My eyes are bothering me and I have a headache, breathing problems and feel nauseated and dizzy. The aroma of mothballs is still very noticeable.

My wife is also feeling bad and I am worried about the kids. Could that old sofa be making us sick?

A. It is possible. Most mothballs contain para-dichlorobenzene (p-DCB), a pesticide that goes from the solid mothball form to a gas that is toxic to moth larvae.

Exposure to the vapor can trigger irritation of the eyes and nose. High concentrations may lead to fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting. P-DCB fumes can even affect the nervous system, causing weakness and lack of coordination. This compound has some estrogenic activity and is considered an endocrine disruptor.

If children or pets swallow mothballs, they could be poisoned. It sounds like the free couch from your grandmother was no bargain.

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3 Comments

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I can't tolerate mothballs at all. They trigger migraines, asthma and irritate my entire respiratory system, among other symptoms. They are very toxic and it is wise to totally avoid them.

No question about mothballs. My mother used to use them in all of her closets, and when I went to her house, I would get horrible headaches. I can't be anywhere near them, even to use outside as a bug deterrent.

It is a good way to dicourage rodents to have nest in the attic.

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