Naphthalene (also known as naphthalin, naphthaline, tar camphor, white tar, albocarbon, or naphthene) is a crystalline white solid hydrocarbon, with the empirical formula C10H8. It is volatile, forming a flammable vapor. Its molecules consist of two benzene rings joined at one side. It is manufactured from coal tar, and converted to phthalic anhydride for the manufacture of plastics, dyes and solvents. It is also used as an antiseptic and insecticide, especially in mothballs.

Health effects

In humans, exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may damage or destroy red blood cells. This could cause the body to have too few red blood cells until it replaces the destroyed cells. Humans, particularly children, have developed this condition after ingesting mothballs or deodorant blocks containing naphthalene. Some of the symptoms of this condition are fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness, and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and a yellow color of the skin.

Animals sometimes develop cloudiness in their eyes after swallowing naphthalene. It is not clear if this also develops in humans.

When mice were repeatedly exposed to naphthalene vapors for two years, their noses and lungs became inflamed and irritated.


The name naphthalene is derived from the Latin word of Iranian origin naphtha. Naphtha is a term for any volatile and usually flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture, normally in the context of a solvent. It was earlier spelt naphthaline. The name phthalic acid is a shortened naphthalic acid, which is named from naphthalene.

description: white crystalline powder molecular formula: C10H8 molecular weight: 128.6 g/mol density: 4.42 g/cm^3 @20 C boiling point: 218 C melting point: 80.5 C