Paradichlorobenzene poisoning

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Definition

Paradichlorobenzene is a white, solid chemical with a very strong odor. Poisoning can occur if you swallow this chemical.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

Paradichlorobenzene

Where Found

These products contain paradichlorobenzene:

  • Toilet bowl deodorizers
  • Moth repellant

Other products may also contain paradichlorobenzene.

Symptoms

Below are symptoms of paradichlorobenzene poisoning in different parts of the body.

EYES, EARS, THROAT, AND MOUTH

  • Burning in mouth

LUNGS AND AIRWAYS

  • Breathing problems (rapid, slow, or painful)
  • Cough
  • Shallow breathing

NERVOUS SYSTEM

  • Changes in alertness
  • Headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness

SKIN

  • Yellow skin (jaundice)

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting

Home Care

Get medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the chemical was swallowed, give the person water or milk right away, unless instructed otherwise by a provider. DO NOT give water or milk if the person is unconscious (has a decreased level of alertness).

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition (for example, is the person awake or alert?)
  • Name of the product
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Take the container to the hospital with you, if possible.

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.

The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs, and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Laxatives
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Outlook (Prognosis)

This type of poisoning is usually not life-threatening. Little will likely happen if your child accidentally puts a moth ball in the mouth, even if it is swallowed, unless it causes choking. Mothballs have an irritating smell, which usually keeps people away from them.

More severe symptoms may occur if someone swallows the product on purpose, since larger amounts are usually swallowed.

References

Holland MG. Occupational toxicology. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 82.

Kim KI. Camphor and moth repellents. In: Goldfrank LR, Flomenbaum NE, Lewin NA, et al, eds. Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. 10th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2015:chap 105.

Zosel AE. General approach to the poisoned patient. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 143.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/4/2015
  • Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services / Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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