What Is Borax and Is It Safe?
Borax, also known as sodium tetraborate, is a white mineral with powder-like consistency and texture which has been used as a cleaning agent for many years. Sodium tetraborate has numerous different uses such as getting rid of mildew, molds, and stains around a person’s home, help eliminate various insects such as ants, help remove dirt and whiten household areas and items as an ingredient in household cleaners and laundry detergents, and help soften hard water and odor neutralization.
Sodium tetraboratemay also be added in certain cosmetic and beauty products to act as a preservative, buffering agents, and emulsifier for bath salts, scrubs, bath bombs, lotions, gels, shampoos creams, and other moisturizing products. Sodium tetraborate can also be used to make a gooey substance known to kids and children as “slime” which can be created by mixing it in with water and glue. This slime can be a source of great entertainment and enjoyment for kids.
At present, sodium tetraborate has been replaced with other ingredients in cosmetics and household cleaners. The creation of slime has also moved from using borax to utilizing cornstarch instead. Lately, however, borax has been touted as a “green” or safe and nature-friendly ingredient. But is borax really safe?
Can It Be Safely Ingested or Applied To The Skin?
Borax has been touted as a green product or ingredient because it does not contain any chlorine and phosphates. In lieu of chlorine and phosphates, a sodium tetraborate is a form of mineral that is naturally occurring. Sodium tetraboratemain can sometimes be confused by individuals with boric acid. This is understandable as both boric acid and sodium tetraborate have properties that are very similar. However, boric acid is most commonly utilized as a pesticide and it has higher levels of toxicity compared to sodium tetraborate. As such, people are cautioned to handle boric acid with caution and extra care.
People might quickly assume that since borax is natural, it is already safe and okay for consumption and general use. It actually comes in a packaging that clearly states warning labels informing potential users of borax possible toxic effects if handled and used improperly. These include harmful effects when swallowed and the irritation it may cause when it comes into contact with the human eyes. Individuals may oftentimes be exposed to borax in their homes, they may also be exposed to it at work or during travel such as in factories or refinery plants that handle borax.
Some of the significant adverse effects associated with the National Institutes of Health with sodium tetraborateinclude death, toxicity, hormone issues, and irritation.
Listed below are more details of the said adverse effects:
Exposure to significant amounts of Borax can lead to irritation of the eyes and the skin and may also irritate other internal organs within the human body if inhaled in large amounts. Individuals have also claimed being burned due to exposure to borax. Some of the telltale signs of exposure to borax include problems with the respiratory system, nausea, irritation of the eyes, vomiting, infections of the mouth, and rashes of the skin.
Hormonal issues or problems
Increased levels of sodium tetraborate exposure can cause problems with the individual’s hormones and can disrupt the processes within them. Evidence suggests that they can adversely affect the reproductive functions of male individuals in terms of libido levels and sperm count. In a laboratory test conducted on rats, it was found that those exposed to borax experienced atrophy of the testes or its sex organs. Female patients, on the other hand, may have decreased fertility and ovulation once exposed to extreme levels of borax. In animal test subjects, pregnant animals that were exposed to increased levels of borax showed adverse and harmful effects on fetal development and can cause decreased weight at birth.
Once sodium tetraborate is broken down and processed by the human body once inhaled or ingested can cause poisonings and even organ damage if borax levels are higher than the recommended safe levels. This has been observed even in cosmetic products.
Children are especially at risk when it comes to sodium tetraborate exposure. Children who may ingest sodium tetraborate at five (5) to ten (10) grams may experience shock, diarrhea, vomiting and even death. Little kids can get exposed to borax when they crawl on the floor with pesticides or when they play with slime which contains borax as an ingredient. Adults, on the other hand, have a higher tolerance for deadly borax ingestion at around ten (10) to twenty-five (25) grams.
Experts suggest that limiting the use and exposure to high doses of borax is possible by having borax replaced with other much safer ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide that is food grade or essential oils for disinfectants, powdered or liquid oxygen bleach, washing soda and baking soda for clothing detergents, white vinegar and salt for mildew and molds, and more natural products for beauty or cosmetic products.
Can Borax be safely used?
Generally speaking, when used as a cleaning product, borax can be safe if used with the right precaution and proper safety equipment. As a general rule, minimizing direct contact with the substance itself is the best way to keep oneself safe from the adverse effects of borax.