Warning About Camphor Use
The familiar camphor, with its strong smell, and long used as a moth repellant, is now showing up on the market in an adultered form. This form is toxic and particualry dangerous to children. Although similar in appearance, it is not at all the product used many years ago.
What is camphor?
Camphor is obtained from the tree, Cinnamomum camphora, and is a white crystaliine substance. Known as 'alcanfor' in Spanish, camphor is a common ingredient in cold products, as an air freshener, for warding off illnesses, and for pest control. It is sold as a balm, ointment, and in the familiar cube and mothball form. (see photos)
What's the problem now?
However, the name camphor has also been given to different concrete, odorous, volatile products from a variety of aromatic plants. In New York City, warnings have been issued against camphor products. These camphor products have been shown to be a danger, particularly for children.
What is the danger with children and camphor?
The Health Department in New York City has warned parents that camphor products can be very dangerous for children. If accidentally ingested or applied to the skin, camphor products can be toxic. In 2008, three cases of seizures associated with camphor have been confirmed and seven additional cases were investigated.
Aren't products with camphor legal?
The FDA does not approve the use of camphor for cold or cough medicine. Legal products containing camphor, such as chest rubs, should be used only as directed on the label.
What are the symptoms of camphor poisoning?
The main symptoms of camphor posioning can occur in 5 to 20 minutes. They include agitation, nausea, stomachache, vomiting, irritability and seizures.
New Warning - As of 11/24/10 - New Jersey has issued a safety warning about children eating lavender camphor products - because they look like candy.
What about camphorated oil?
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that camphorated oil is the worst offender in the case of accidental ingestion. This is due to the fact that the oil is mistaken for several other over-the-counter (OTC) products. Even ingesting a small amount of the oil can be fatal. Also a transplacental transfer can take place and this may be toxic to the fetus.
What are the respiratory dangers?
Our respiratory tract is particularly sensitive to camphor. This is thought to be due to its stimulation of nerve endings. Camphor crosses the mucous membranes, the skin, the placental barrier and can cause hepatoneurotoxicity - damage to the liver and the nerves.
What is camphor's relationship to Reye's Syndrome?
Due to its hepatoneurotoxic effects (mentioned above), camphor toxicity may clinically mimic Reyes's Syndrome. In order to differentiate between the two, a histologic examination of liver tissue is necessary and this requires the need for a liver biopsy.
I would opt to avoid all camphor products, especially around children, or with pets in the home. There is no assurance of what you are actually purchasing.
For more information about toxic products in our homes, see the links below:
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