The government is considering reducing the use of mothballs in public facilities in response to a petition launched in April to ban them, an Executive Yuan official said.
Studies have shown that exposure to mothballs could cause hemolysis — or rupturing of red blood cells — in people who have glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, said the petition, which was posted on the National Development Council’s public policy network participation platform.
With the petition exceeding the threshold of 5,000 signatures on July 2, a public hearing was held on Friday last week.
The Health Promotion Administration has been testing newborns for G6PD deficiency since 1985, and of the 3,888 children born with abnormalities last year, 3,522 tested positive for the condition.
The petition says it hopes that within the next five years, the government would prohibit the production, processing, import, sale and use of non-industrial and consumer-grade mothballs.
The Environmental Protection Administration should also refuse to issue permits for the import, manufacture or use of pesticides or other environmental products that contain 1,4-dichlorobenzene or naphthalene C10H8 — the active ingredient in mothballs and some pesticides, which causes hemolysis, it says.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare should inform government agencies that they should cease use of such products within one year, it says.
Given that there are about 400,000 people in Taiwan with G6PD deficiency, current regulations require that packaging for mothballs include a warning to those with G6PD deficiency, advising them not to use the product, the official said.
The government is considering reducing the use of mothballs by first restricting their use in public facilities, the official said.
However, in cases where mothballs were used as a deodorizer in restrooms because they could not be cleaned often, the government would require clear signage to warn people with G6PD deficiency, the official said.
The WHO has listed naphthalene as a mildly toxic substance, but regulations governing its use differ worldwide, the official said.
For example, while New Zealand bans the product, other nations, such as the US, Japan and Australia, do not have such bans, the official said.
Mackay Memorial Hospital pediatrician Lin Hsuan-pei (林炫沛) welcomed the government’s plan, while warning those with G6PD deficiency to also avoid using mothballs at home.
Using mothballs for storing clothes means that naphthalene or dichlorobenzene would come into close contact with a person’s skin for long periods of time, which is a common problem, he said.
Those with G6PD deficiency can safely use public restrooms even if there are mothballs, unless they have to spend 30 minutes or more in the restroom, he said.
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