Camphor is an organic compound naturally occurring in camphor laurel. Cinnamomum Camphora is found in regions of Asia like Japan, Taiwan and China. It is purified and refined for use in many household products.
Wood is steamed off the camphor laurel tree to produce a vapor, then crystallized and heated with charcoal to produce a white gum-like product. It has a strong smell and is flammable.
Camphor is widely used in joint and muscle remedies like Vicks Vapo Rub and cough and cold medication. Pain relieving products like Campho-Phenique and some pharmaceutical products also contain camphor.
Plastics, insecticides, nail polish, furniture polish and rodent repellent all contain a percentage of camphor.
Medical and household products, with camphor as an ingredient, must be kept away from children and pets. Exposure to toxic levels of camphor can cause nausea, vomiting, mucous membrane irritation, abdominal pain and convulsions. Other symptoms like dizziness, headache and confusion are also linked to toxicity. It is essential to seek immediate medical attention in a hospital emergency room if camphor poisoning is suspected.
Pregnant women should be especially cautious using camphor related products. Fetal deaths have been caused by camphor poisoning.