Bug of the month: Moths

My good friend Raoul found himself in an elevator stuck between two people wearing wool sweaters. He almost passed out. Why? Because the two people used an outdated and dangerous method to repel moths: they stored the sweaters in mothballs. 

You may not know that mothballs contain incredibly toxic carcinogens, such as paradichlorobenzene and naphthalene, that can damage the kidneys, liver, eyes, and nervous system. Children and adults have been poisoned just by wearing clothes treated with mothballs, and children have ingested mothballs, mistaking them for candy.

Here are safer ways to repel moths:

  • Use oil of cedar wood around clothing to work wonders: The Greeks and Romans used it on the backs of parchment manuscripts to prevent insects from eating them;
  • Clean your woolens regularly:  Moths themselves don't actually bother your clothes - it is their barely visible larvae that do the damage by feeding on food, sweat and urine stains in fur and wool clothing.  You should also shake your woolens outside to disturb any leftover larvae in the clothing;
  • Expose infested items to sunlight, which is the enemy of clothes moths;
  • Iron clothing to kill the larvae;
  • Place infested items in a freezer for a few days to kill the larvae; and
  • Regularly vacuum to eliminate hair and fur that larvae feed on.

Mothballs and the toxins they contain have no place in your home or on your clothes.  By using the safe and effective alternatives listed above, you can repel moths without putting your family's health in jeopardy.

For more information contact Beyond Pesticides Ohio at 216-291-3424 or visit www.beyondpesticidesohio.org.

Barry Zucker is executive director of Beyond Pesticides Ohio, a nonprofit organization that promotes the safer, more cost-effective pest control practices of Integrated Pest Management.

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Volume 2, Issue 3, Posted 4:14 PM, 02.06.2009