Naphthalene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon that is commonly encountered in indoor and outdoor environments. There is growing awareness of the environmental health risks associated with inhalation exposure to naphthalene in the indoor environment. While there are numerous potential sources of naphthalene indoors, the use of mothballs can be a significant contributor to ambient concentrations. This review article describes recurring and emerging environmental health issues relating to mothballs containing naphthalene. The toxicology and health effects of naphthalene exposure are reviewed, with discussion of high-risk populations and risk mitigation strategies. Environmental health professionals should be aware of mothball use in the home, and recognize risks associated with accidental exposure and misuse.
Keywords: indoor exposure; mothballs; naphthalene; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); public health.