Rodenticides and Mothballs

What is a rodenticide? A rodenticide is a chemical used to kill rats and mice. These products are sold as pellets or in chunks (bait bits) in most grocery, hardware, and discount stores. While a small taste or lick is usually not a problem, a swallow or two may cause serious effects. Signs of toxicity may be delayed for days.

Rodenticides are poisonous to people and pets. These chemicals cause anticoagulation; meaning blood does not clot, in one to three days. Bleeding may develop in days to weeks. Signs and symptoms of rodenticide poisoning include bruising, bleeding gums, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting of blood.

Mothballs can also be dangerous to people and pets. Mothballs are meant to kill moths, eggs and larvae, but are also used to keep rats, mice and squirrels away. Those containing paradichlorobenzene are safer than mothballs containing naphthalene. As little as one mothball can be toxic when swallowed. The chemicals can harm blood cells. Effects may not appear for up to five days after a mothball is eaten. The symptoms of mothball poisoning include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, belly pain and diarrhea
  • Agitation, restlessness or lethargy
  • Fever
  • Headache

The liver can also be affected. In severe cases, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures, coma and death may result. Rodenticides and mothballs are often found in barns, attics, garages and cellars. Parents may be unaware they are present. Take these precautions:

  • Thoroughly check the area before allowing children or pets to play there.
  • Check in corners, behind doors, in closets and under furniture.
  • Safely dispose of rodenticide boxes or packets, and mothballs.
  • If a child or a pet has found a rodenticide package, bring the box to the phone and call the Poison Center.

Safer suggestions if you have a problem with rats and mice in your home or camp:

  • Use mouse snap traps.
  • Use the sticky-sided cardboard mouse traps.
  • If you use a rodenticide:
    • Mark the box with the date it was opened;
    • Place out of the sight and reach of children and pets;
    • Keep track of the amount in the box by marking it every few days;
    • Keep a log indicating where the rodenticide has been placed (consider using a daily calendar or a note on the refrigerator);
    • Keep unopened packages up high out of reach of children and pets.

If you suspect that a rodenticide or mothballs have been ingested, call your local poison center at 1-800-222- 1222 right away! Do not wait for symptoms. Symptoms can be delayed days or weeks.