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Mothball odor removal & mothball chemical & gas hazards: here we describe the detection of and risks of exposure to mothball chemicals & odors when moth repellent products are applied indoors in buildings.
We describe how to get rid of mothball odors in buildings, building furnishings, clothing, or vehicles.
We note the possible health hazards from exposure to mothball odors (and gases) as well as the child hazard of eating mothballs or moth repellent products. We discuss methods to reduce mothball chemical & gas exposure.
We cite authoritative sources of information about safe and proper use of moth repellents and about mothball and moth repellent chemistry, child hazards, indoor air quality and health concerns, and proper application and use of these products.
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Mothballs are fumigants containing naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene and act a pest repellent and possibly act also as a pesticide used to protect clothing and other soft goods from attack by moths. [The moth at left and all other moths shown in this article except the one at the top of this page are not clothes-attacking insects.]
Some people have also tried using moth repellent products like mothballs to keep rodents and other pests out of certain building areas or out of stored vehicles.
Placing an open box of mothballs under the hood of my MG midget while it was stored kept squirrels and mice from nesting in the engine compartment, and leaving a box of mothballs inside the car was an attempt to keep the same pests out of the vehicle interior too.
Watch out: we do not recommend placing mothballs, moth cakes, or moth repellent flakes inside building rooms, crawl spaces, attics, wall or ceiling cavities, trash cans, nor inside vehicles, both because the fumes and chemicals can be hazardous to humans and because the odor can later be difficult to get rid-of. We explain this problem in detail below.
Watch out: because mothballs are a registered pesticide and because of the toxicity of their chemicals, it is illegal to use mothballs or moth crystals, cakes, etc. as a repellent for animal pests (birds, cats, deer, dogs, moles, pigeons, mice, skunks, raccoons,snakes, squirrels, etc.) 
Every registered pesticide has a “signal” word on the label, ranking the level of toxicity to humans, as follows:
Page top image of mothballs courtesy of Wikipedia creative commons. Clothes moth image shown at above left is from Stone & Stock, PNW who provide an excellent guide to moth control. 
Mothballs contain either of the chemicals paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. Paradichlorobenzene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA, and its vapors can irritate skin, eyes, and the respiratory tract.
Large doses can damage the liver. Mothballs are not intended to be placed in open spaces such as rooms, closets, or vehicles. Rather they should be used in an airtight space such as a clothes storage bag. 
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Mothball Hazards, Odors, Odor Removal
Question: How can we get rid of an annoying mothball odor in our Condo?
We moved into a condo, which is a concrete block structure 3 months ago. Shortly after the move we began to smell moth balls.
After following the smell we were able to find out that the unit above us displaced several moth balls throughout there unit, tightly sealed the unit up without air conditioning on(we live in Florida) and left for the summer.
As the smell increased in our unit we begged parties involved to rid the unit of the moth balls and air it out.
Finally this was done, however even though the smell appears to be gone sometimes, other times we can still smell a bad odor, sometimes now the odor is less mothball smell and just simply a bad odor.
We have tried everything and are desperate to solve the problem. Is it possible to get rid of this toxic odor?
Any help would be greatly appreciated. - B.P. 9/22/2012
Indeed the odor from mothballs is a VOC-like substance (paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene) that quite penetrates many materials including even drywall, furnishings, carpeting, and it can take quite a while for it to diminish. And most people can smell mothballs - the characteristic odor of those chemicals can generally be detected in air at a concentration of just a few parts per billion, so getting rid of mothball odors is going to take some thorough airing out and cleaning.
Questions & answers or comments about mothball chemicals, hazards, odors, & odor removal.
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