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Mothball review sought by academics

4 February 2011

The APVMA has received a submission from academics at the University of Sydney seeking a review of mothballs containing naphthalene due to the risk they present to babies.

The hazards associated with the use of mothballs and flakes containing naphthalene are generally well known. Current Australian product labels warn of the dangers to children from sucking and swallowing mothballs and prohibit use on the bedding of infants and in the bedrooms of young children. Special packaging is also used to limit access by children.

The submission raises a particular concern that babies, particularly those with a specific genetic condition (GP6D deficiency) possessed by five percent of Australians of Asian, African, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent, could be at risk of brain damage if exposed to the chemical because users have not properly observed the warnings.

The APVMA, in response, has sought advice from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing whether there is any new information that raises concerns that could trigger a review of the registration status of naphthalene products in Australia.

The United States and Canada recently conducted re-registration reviews of naphthalene mothballs and flakes. These reviews, in 2008 and 2009, confirmed their safety subject to changes to packaging, application rates and label changes.

Naphthalene mothballs and flakes have not been available in the European Union since mid 2009. They were withdrawn following a lack of commercial interest by manufacturers (external PDF, 41kb) in funding new studies to support the chemical in a European review of biocide products.

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Last updated on 7 February, 2011
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