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Updated on August 13, 2016

Putting camphor in your wardrobe to drive away insects is as bad as insects infesting your wardrobe itself. The use of camphor is an age long practice which experts are warning is very dangerous.

Camphor, which is scientifically known as Naphthalene, is a common ingredient in many products used for colds, pest control, to ward off illness, or as air freshner. Camphor is sold in cubes and it is a constituent of some balms and chest rubs used to relieve congestion.


However, camphor needs to be used with a lot of caution because of its adverse effect on health, some of which are infact very scary.

Some camphor products can be very toxic children when accidentally ingested or excessively applied to skin, three recent cases of seizures associated with camphor that was confirmed in the Bronx in January, made the new New York City Health Department warn New York City parents and care givers to keep products containing camphor away from Children. (Fortunately, all three Children have recovered).

Camphor and other products like mentholated powder are substances that could cause damage to red blood cells when children are exposed to them ‘ for those babies that are worst affected, say due to having blog genetic problem, mere hugging them is enough to trigger the problem. This could cause the body to have too few red blood cells, a condition medically referred to as anaemia (lack of blood).

Anaemia in children has many health implications, including cold intolerance, brittle of rigid finger nails, fatigue, loss of muscle strength, dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations pounding in your head and ringing in your ears. Anaemia, when severe can be also the reason for delayed growth in childhood, for impeding in sport activities or reduced progress at school.

Equally, the by product of the destroyed blood cells called bilirubin, can damage the brain of the affected child. This is why mothers are usually warned against using mentholated products in dressing their baby’s cord or in the prevention of heat rash.

A situation camphor is left within the reach of a child is equally dangerous because the child can easily put his/her mouth. Persons that ingest mothballs or deodorants containing camphor may experience symptoms such as fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of moth balls or large amounts of mothballs or naphthalene may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in the urine and a yellow colouration of the skin.

Meanwhile, persons with a condition called Glucose-6-phosphate deficiency are more vulnerable to the effects of camphor even at very doses. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G-6-PD) deficiency is a hereditary, sex linked enzymes defect. It results in the breakdown of red blood cells when the person is exposed to certain drugs or the stress of infection. The primary effect of G-6 PD deficiency is the reduction of the enzyme G-6-PD in red blood cells, causing destruction of the cells. Ultimately, this leads to anaemia.

People with the disorder are not normally anaemic. They do not display any evidence of the disease until the red blood cells are exposed to certain chemicals in food or medicine, or to stress. Risk factors for G-6-PD deficiency.

When these individuals are exposed to compounds like camphor and menthol, say through their clothes or body powder, it tends to damage or destroy their red blood cells, causing Anaemia. In such children or those with G6PD, they may have experienced symptoms such as fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in the urine and jaundice (yellow colouration of the skin). When the U.S National Toxicology Programme exposed male and female rats and mice to camphor vapours on weekdays for two years, male and female rats exhibited an increased evidence of signs pointing to cancer, especially of the nose and lungs.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies naphthalene as possible cause of cancer in humans. The IARC also pointed out that acute exposure causes cataracts in humans, rats, rabbits and mice. They said that destruction of the red blood cells can occur in children and infants after oral or inhalation exposure or after maternal exposure during pregnancy.

In the interim, parents and caregivers are advised to do the following:

Do not use any product without an ingredient label, manufacturers name and address – these products are illegal and unsafe.

Keep all camphor products out of the reach of children

Do not scatter camphor products around the house or use them in humidifiers

Do not attach them to your child as a bracelet or hang them near your child

Do not use camphor for pest control. Use only safer pest control products such as boric acid, gels and baits for cockroaches and glue traps or bait in enclosed tamper – proof containers.

Hope this article would help you in raising up healthy kids.

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