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Warning About Camphor Use

camphor tree and fruit

camphor tree and fruit

camphor cube

camphor cube

camphor balls

camphor balls

Camphor Warnings

The familiar camphor, with its strong smell, and long used as a moth repellant, is now showing up on the market in an adultered form. This form is toxic and particualry dangerous to children. Although similar in appearance, it is not at all the product used many years ago.

What is camphor?

Camphor is obtained from the tree, Cinnamomum camphora, and is a white crystaliine substance. Known as 'alcanfor' in Spanish, camphor is a common ingredient in cold products, as an air freshener, for warding off illnesses, and for pest control. It is sold as a balm, ointment, and in the familiar cube and mothball form. (see photos)

What's the problem now?

However, the name camphor has also been given to different concrete, odorous, volatile products from a variety of aromatic plants. In New York City, warnings have been issued against camphor products. These camphor products have been shown to be a danger, particularly for children.

What is the danger with children and camphor?

The Health Department in New York City has warned parents that camphor products can be very dangerous for children. If accidentally ingested or applied to the skin, camphor products can be toxic. In 2008, three cases of seizures associated with camphor have been confirmed and seven additional cases were investigated.

Aren't products with camphor legal?

The FDA does not approve the use of camphor for cold or cough medicine. Legal products containing camphor, such as chest rubs, should be used only as directed on the label.

What are the symptoms of camphor poisoning?

The main symptoms of camphor posioning can occur in 5 to 20 minutes. They include agitation, nausea, stomachache, vomiting, irritability and seizures.

New Warning - As of 11/24/10 - New Jersey has issued a safety warning about children eating lavender camphor products - because they look like candy.

What about camphorated oil?

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that camphorated oil is the worst offender in the case of accidental ingestion. This is due to the fact that the oil is mistaken for several other over-the-counter (OTC) products. Even ingesting a small amount of the oil can be fatal. Also a transplacental transfer can take place and this may be toxic to the fetus.

What are the respiratory dangers?

Our respiratory tract is particularly sensitive to camphor. This is thought to be due to its stimulation of nerve endings. Camphor crosses the mucous membranes, the skin, the placental barrier and can cause hepatoneurotoxicity - damage to the liver and the nerves.

What is camphor's relationship to Reye's Syndrome?

Due to its hepatoneurotoxic effects (mentioned above), camphor toxicity may clinically mimic Reyes's Syndrome. In order to differentiate between the two, a histologic examination of liver tissue is necessary and this requires the need for a liver biopsy.

I would opt to avoid all camphor products, especially around children, or with pets in the home. There is no assurance of what you are actually purchasing. 

For more information about toxic products in our homes, see the links below:

Toxic Products in the Home

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connerie on October 28, 2013:

'medicinal use of camphor is discouraged by the FDA, except for skin-related uses'

fda allow concentration from 3 to 11% of camphor.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on February 05, 2013:

Hello FullOfLoveSites - seems we have to be forever vigilant with absolutely everything we buy and consume. What bothers me is when products change but there is no new labeling to inform us - like when so many companies began using high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar - we were never told - so we just kept picking up the same item.

FullOfLoveSites from United States on February 05, 2013:

As far as I know, Vicks has camphor and I have one in my medicine cabinet. This is really scary, but it's good that this hub presents a caution against using products with camphor, now I'd be careful with it. It will serve as a guide especially in buying cold and cough remedies. Up and useful.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 29, 2013:

Loli - great tips! Thanks so much for taking the time ti write and share that. I am not too sure about anything from the 99cent store - especially if it does not specifically says camphor. The main concern however seems to be warnings if you have children.

Aussie Marg. we never know for sure if we are buying the real thing. However, I'd feel safer purchasing camphor through Amazon rather than a random, unknown source.

aromaoilstore - you're right - natural essential oils are always best.

aromaoilstore on November 17, 2012:

I am used camphor oil for skin treatment and eyebrow. Natural essential oils are best....visit website aromaoilstore

Aussie Marg. on May 21, 2012:

I stumbled across your page whilst trying to access information on the differences in Camphor. Thankyou very much for the input. My elderly neighbours have been trying to purchase the 'real' Camphor here in Australia, but there only appears to be synthetic. Are you aware of any sellers in the USA who sell the genuine product? Amazon appears to sell it, with the words 'not synthetic' but I'm not 100% convinced!

Many thanks for all your information, it is appreciated.

Loli on April 22, 2012:

Wow great article on Camphor...I just started using it this wk(recommended by a friend) she gave me a few pieces to try. She suggested putting pieces in a cup of water & placing it in different parts of the house. I chose my kitchen over the sink 2 repel bugs. Keeps the kitchen smelling clean & actually repels the bugs(just moved to the country) But after reading this article Im wondering if it's the real thing. She buys it @ her local 99cent store.Comes in a long bar wrapped kin plastic when you open it., it's actually single cubes wrapped together...could this be the real thing? If not where can I get the real thing? B/c I actually like what it does for the house. Not familiar with the product. Didn't grow up on it...by the way the product doesn't say camphor. It has a polar bear on it & says white bear...any suggestion would be appreciated.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on March 29, 2011:

I'm so glad you found the info useful toknowinfo. Thanks for writing!

toknowinfo on March 29, 2011:

Thanks for the alert. You have done a good service by writing this article to create awareness. Much gratitude for the info.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on March 23, 2011:

Goo suggestion Romano Arnesto. Thanks for sharing that!

Romano Arnesto from Philippines on March 23, 2011:

I used camphor ball to ward off 'roaches from my cabinets. Thanks for sharing!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on February 13, 2011:

Ooooh let us know AustralianNappies - because it is one of those powerful lingering odors!

AustralianNappies from Australia on February 13, 2011:

Thanks so much for your reply to my comment, I will definitely try vinegar. Great idea! I didn't want to use more chemicals on it so I tried rubbing it with a cloth soaked in Lux Flakes and it's made the scent worse.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on February 12, 2011:

Wow - I wonder what would work - vinegar maybe. You know what I use to neutralize odor when my cat uses the litter box? And old tip - strike a match - something about the flint and the flame. What ever it is, it instantly neutralizes the odor so it doesn't linger.

Thanks for commenting!

AustralianNappies from Australia on February 12, 2011:

Really good information here, I'm having trouble getting the smell of Camphor out of a cupboard in my baby daughter's room. Put there years before she was born.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on February 11, 2011:

Thanks for the compliment RunAbstract - and thanks for commenting!

RunAbstract from USA on February 11, 2011:

Great article! Love the info!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 23, 2011:

Thanks Tarah_ for sharing that information about it being toxic to cats too. Even if we were to put it up and away a cat can still get into it, even roll it around as if it is a ball.

Thanks for writing!

Tarah_ on January 22, 2011:

I agree with you about camphor. I managed to find some moth balls that have camphor in them and then checked Google on any problems in using it. In addition to camphor being a problem for children, it is also toxic to cats. I haven’t used moth balls since I found out about this.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 15, 2011:

You're welcome World-Traveler. I so enjoy your articles. Thanks for commenting!

World-Traveler from USA on January 15, 2011:

Voted Up as useful. There is much I have to learn. Thanks for the information.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 14, 2011:

Thanks for the wonderful comment Debby Bruck. Glad you found the hub useful!

Debby Bruck on January 14, 2011:

Thumbs up. Awesome info. Well constructed Hub. Appreciate it very much. Hugs, Debby

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 13, 2011:

You're welcome Lady_E. Glad the hub is useful.

Elena from London, UK on January 13, 2011:

Thanks for raising awareness - sometimes I use Camphor round the house but will be cautions when friends kids are about.

Regards, E.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 04, 2011:

I can grow it here in New York because I am in one of just two zones where I think it will do well. It can even be purchased in seed form. I don't have a personal experience to share. Right now I am looking for native plants because I think they may be easier to grow - and even ignore if I do the correct companion planting.

If you grow one, RTalloni - I hope you write a hub!

RTalloni on January 03, 2011:

Thanks very much for this warning! Know anything about growing camphor?

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on January 02, 2011:

We do want to preserve our quality wools. Cedar wood seems to work very well. Perhaps you can find true camphor oil and put it on cotton balls.

So interesting - you just don't see the moths - but yet they somehow get to the wool.

Thanks for writing Lord Bryan!

LORD BRYAN on January 02, 2011:

This is perfectly timed. I have been using moth balls here for a long time. I started when my wonderful blue blazer was attacked by the little buggers. Now I am wondering if I'm using the wrong type. Or what can I use that is natural? Natural is what I'd rather use anyway. Thanks for this.

Lord Bryan

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on December 30, 2010:

You're welcome fastfreta - and just as you point out-the name is the same but the product is not. This seems to be common across the board - with substitutions everywhere.

How well I remember camphor and it never made us sick.

Thanks for writing!

Alfreta Sailor from Southern California on December 30, 2010:

I can't believe this, camphor dangerous! Just think we used to use it and even ingest it as children. But you did say it's not the same as before. I'll have to remember this hub and not just blindly recommend it to my children for their children. I guess modern medicine really want us to depend on them, being that a lot of the things that we used to make up and use has been altered, and rendered harmful. Thanks for the research. Bk.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on December 17, 2010:

You're welcome gr82bme. Thanks for commenting!

gr82bme from USA on December 16, 2010:

Well done. I use to use it on cold soars. Thanks for the info

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on December 15, 2010:

Soooooooo glad to see you again Maita!

I remember the balls too - but they have changed - to a super toxic product with a strong odor. But not what our moms used. Now I'm more aware of it and I see this product is sold everywhere - especially like at 99 cent stores. Yikes.

prettydarkhorse from US on December 15, 2010:

Useful hub, I remember my mother used to put those balls in our dresser. How are you Carolyn, I am back to read your hubs. Happy holidays, miss you, Maita

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on December 13, 2010:

There is so much Micky Dee. Thanks for writing!

Micky Dee on December 13, 2010:

Keep us aware my Dear!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on December 04, 2010:

We have to be so vigilant anglnwu. Is it camphor - or is it 'camphor' - we just aren't told although the camphor label is showing up on so many toxic products. Too bad. It was a useful natural product.

Thanks for commenting!

anglnwu on December 03, 2010:

Wow, didn't realize camphor can be harmful until now. Thanks for pointing out the facts. Nicely done.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on December 02, 2010:

You're welcome bettypnash. I'll forward the information.

Things change so much HealthyHanna. It's almost as if toxic producers are anxious to say "Gotcha!"

Thanks for the comments!

HealthyHanna from Utah on December 01, 2010:

This is something I am unfamiliar with as well. Thanks for sharing. Your other hubs listed here are interesting as well.

bettpnash@Yahoo.com on December 01, 2010:

Carolyn,please send me information now to bettypnash@g-mail.com.Thanks for the information.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 30, 2010:

You're very welcome prasetio. Thank you very much for commenting!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 30, 2010:

Nice information. I never heard about this before. Because I never find this plant in my area. I learn much from you about this camphor. Thank you very much. ~prasetio

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 30, 2010:

You're welcome Hello, hello. Glad you found the information useful. Thanks for commenting!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 30, 2010:

Gosh, I never knew enything about this. Thank you for good research and information.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 29, 2010:

Thank you for commenting sameerk!

sameerk from India on November 29, 2010:

nice hub , very well written

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 28, 2010:

Thanks for sharing all that information Nellieanna. I too am of that generation where our mother's treated our ailments with natural ingredients handed down from their mothers and camphor products were used. Real camphor is from that evergreen tree from Asia (in the photo) and the real products are still on the market. The tricky part is that the word 'camphor' can be used on synthetic products like those balls and flakes which have the toxic chemicals that are so easy to solidify.

Thanks for all the information!

Thanks De Greek - your comment is appreciated!

De Greek from UK on November 28, 2010:

Man, you did your homework here. Well done :-)

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on November 27, 2010:

I popped back over again, still thinking about camphor. There was a time when rubbing a camphorated balm on a congested chest helped. In fact, in my first husband's family, Rawleigh's medicated ointment was used. It was medicated with camphor, Eucalyptus, Menthol, and had lanolin, paraffin other emollients to hasten the penetration. I see it is still made. Their description says that camphor is an evergreen tree of Asia & Australia. Its aromatic leaves are the source of the "good" camphor. (It smells nothing like moth balls!)

His mother would heat some of the ointment in the metal lid of the container, & rub it onto the congested chest, then wrap it in a soft cloth (old-fashioned cloth diapers were great for this!), fasten it with a safety pin (remember those?) and one slept in this. By morning, one's chest would have loosened up and one would feel so much better.

Just out of curiosity I found this description of moth balls:

Mothballs are made of white crystals of two very dangerous chemicals, para-dichlorobenzene (1,4-dichlorobenzene) and/or naphthalene. Both chemicals are solid at room temperature but produce very strong vapors. Mothballs are sold as flakes or pressed into cakes.

I suspect it's all out of test tubes, not off trees!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 27, 2010:

Imagine theherbivorehippi,a cheap product like this mimicking Reye's Syndrome - which is fatal. Surely all children deserve to be safe from this.

Thanks for writing!

theherbivorehippi from Holly, MI on November 27, 2010:

Wow this is scary. I though the only cause of Reye's syndrome was taking aspirin with a fever (shows how much I know). Thanks for the useful information!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 27, 2010:

You're welcome akirchner. Thanks for commenting!

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on November 27, 2010:

Great information and how pertinent!! Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 27, 2010:

So true Nellieanna, when I was a mere child over 50 years ago, my mother stressed in season as did all the elders. They were appalled to see us going to the new supermarkets and buying whatever fruit was offered. Also fruit grown locally must be good for the local people - it all goes together.

I no longer have my lovely garden which I tended when my children were growing because I wanted them to have fresh food - even though food was less industrialized say 30-40 years ago.

But it's my goal now to give up the city condo and buy a space in the country where I have land to work once again. It's all I think about so that must be where I belong.

I'm glad you came back. Always good to hear from you! Yay!

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on November 27, 2010:

Yes, we can express our approval with our dollars and our disapproval by withholding them. Wish I still had the garden I helped my green-thumbed late George keep going for so many years. It was good to know exactly what it had been exposed to. He knew how to plant other plants to deter the pests. It was one of his own designs - a "metro-garden" invention of his. We had more fresh veggies than we could hardly use! I depend on fresh produce for a large % of my diet, which I credit for keeping me active and healthy at the ripe age I am. So I must buy it at the store now. But I am careful and certainly fastidious about washing carefully, even fruits to be peeled.

I buy organic when I can but I can't always. One thing I find is that emphasizing "in season" produce is more likely to be more home-grown, which needs less preservative, with less distance to cover. I love farmer's markets but can't always get to one. Anyway - fresh is better than pills. LOL.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 26, 2010:

You're welcome shygirl - Thanks for the comment!

shygirl2 on November 26, 2010:

Good to know, although I never knew of its other uses. Only that of Camphor Phenic...or cold sore jel? Thanks for the warning, B.K. Creative. :)

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 26, 2010:

You're welcome Nellieanna. I'm glad you came and read. And yes, produce can be genetically altered or drenched in pesticides. Ah, but we can speak with our dollars.

Thanks for writing.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on November 26, 2010:

sigh. Seems that the more 'convenience' we expect or demand, the more we are exposed to new and ever-more dangerous things. Even fresh produce is not without its dangers. Yikes! I've clicked quite a few of your links here and am so amazed at these findings! Thanks for sharing your information!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 26, 2010:

Thank you Darlene Sabella. I'm glad you shared it with others. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of toxic garbage allowed in our markets. Fortunately, we can now spread the word.

Thanks for the up vote too!

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on November 26, 2010:

fantastic hub, I emailed to some friends plus added it to twitter. This is the kind of research about, items in homes to harm us, our children and our pets. I do pray you will read and comment on my hubs when you can. Also I vote this up and am thrilled to learn this. Love darski

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 25, 2010:

Too bad we are forever told 'let the buyer beware' instead of - not allowing us to be victimized by dangerous products in the first place. Real camphor has been around forever with amazing benefits. This should not even be called camphor - but the strong smell makes us think it is the real thing.

Thanks so much for writing VA!

Veronica Allen from Georgia on November 25, 2010:

Wow! This is down right scary! It just goes to show you that you really have to inform yourself about what is going in your body and the body of your children. Thanks for this vital information BkCreative.

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 25, 2010:

Agreed and a reminder that we cannot assume that what we are buying is the real thing. How sad that so many toxins and lead based items can reach our children.

Thanks for writing.

TheListLady from New York City on November 25, 2010:

So true - this was never a concern when I was a child - but now what is out there I wouldn't touch. Manufacturers have given us a product with a similarly strong smell and labeled it camphor - but it is not. Seems we insist upon being uneducated consumers. We'll buy anything. Thanks for the information. With the internet there is no reason for us not to be informed.

Rated up!

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 25, 2010:

It was such a familiar smell in my youth lmmartin. Of course them we had lots of real wool fabric which has been replaced by synthetics. Cedar works well and is a better choice now because we can identify the wood.

It's too bad dahoglund that such a product that is not genuine can retain the camphor name when in fact it is a seriously toxic substitute. Makes me think of all the supplements on the market touting the vitamin and mineral content - yet they are all synthetic versions. Hardly the real thing.

Thanks for the comments. I wrote this because it keeps popping up on the news - and children are seriously affected.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on November 25, 2010:

We used moth balls to discourage certain insect when we lived in Missouri gut have not had them around for years. Interesting information.

lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on November 25, 2010:

Never could stand the smell of the stuff. Thanks for the heads up. Lynda

BkCreative (author) from Brooklyn, New York City on November 24, 2010:

Thank you Coolmon2009. Yet another old product, our elders have used it for ages - now destroyed. We have to remember that in the US a product can be called by a familiar name even if it is not 100% that product.

Yes, creativeone59 - we no longer know what is in our products or its origins - nothing at all - but the name remains the same. Better to remove it from the home if children are there and not take a risk. And have a restful holiday!

Thanks for the comments!

Benny Faye Ashton Douglass from Gold Canyon, Arizona on November 24, 2010:

Thank you for a great hub, we all need to know this information. Thank for sharing it. Godspeed. Have a happy holiday, you and yours. creativeone59

Coolmon2009 from Texas, USA on November 24, 2010:

Good information on the health concerns of Camphor, thanks for sharing.

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