the smell of moth balls. Maybe there is moth DNA hidden in my genome somewhere, but OMG they gag me. It's not just that though - check out what Wikipedia has to say about the health risks:
The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that 1,4-dichlorobenzene "may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen". This has been indicated by animal studies, although a full-scale human study has not been done. The National Toxicology Program (NTP), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the state of California consider 1,4-dichlorobenzene a carcinogen.
Exposure to naphthalene mothballs can cause acute hemolysis (anemia) in people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. IARC classifies naphthalene as possibly carcinogenic to humans and other animals (see also Group 2B). IARC points out that acute exposure causes cataracts in humans, rats, rabbits, and mice. Chronic exposure to naphthalene vapors is reported to also cause cataracts and retinal hemorrhage. Under California's Proposition 65, naphthalene is listed as "known to the State to cause cancer".
In addition to their cancer risks, mothballs are known to cause liver and kidney damage.
But I have lots of yarn.....so what's a girl to do?
For years now I have been making little herbal sachets to tuck into plastic bins of yarn, and even have several tucked in with the open shelves of yarn in my sewing room. Made from scraps of quilting cotton, they are about 3" square, and filled with dried herbs that are naturally moth repellant.
When I had more time on my hands I would gussy them up a bit - two different fabrics front and back, stitch a cute button in the middle, whatever.
What brings this up now is that I have an amazing bumper crop of Sweet Annie in my garden this year! The photo at left is just the stuff I trimmed off the stalks I hung up to dry. Sweet Annie looks like ferny little trees and can grow up to about 3-4 feet, but often stays under 3 feet.
Although all the artemisias are moth repellant, some of them smell a lot like the god-forsaken moth balls. But Sweet Annie smells heavenly! Other herbs I dry and put in my sachets are lavender, rosemary and bay leaves.
If you don't have room for an herb garden, lavender, rosemary and bay are things you can easily find in bulk. Try The Wild Violet in Mars Hill, the Herbiary in Asheville, or possibly Whole Foods. You might not find Sweet Annie unless you are willing to mail order, but if you find something called wormwood, southernwood or the generic term artemesia, it would be a good substitution (if you aren't quite as camphor-phobic as I am).
It's a good idea to replace the dried herbs every year - they do lose their smell after awhile, and I figure that if I can't smell it, maybe the moths can't either. Give it a try! Your nose (and apparently your eyes, liver and kidneys) will thank you!