Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why Borax Is Not Safe for Kids

As a mom and childcare provider I am always looking for and making recipes for arts and crafts activities. I work hard to find or create things using eco-friendly and child safe ingredients. Something I find over and over in blogs, on pinterest and on crafting sites for kids are recipes that require borax. Things like play doughs and slime or goop. 

The quick and dirty facts are that Borax is a pesticide that poisons insects, fungus and weeds, but it also has plenty of other uses that we encounter in consumer products. It has always been beyond my understanding how anyone could use borax to kill roaches one day, and then let their children play with it the next. 

Being a former army wife, I saw borax routinely used by truck fulls (literally) on base and base housing to kill bugs. Knowing this, I always kept this product out of my home and refused to let it be used around my children, and later in my preschool, childcare and school science programs. 

It's true that once upon a time Borax was considered a safe and eco-friendly alternative to harsher cleaning supplies, and recommended for use in the home by many planet loving groups. But a couple of a years ago, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a new report that proved the well intentioned environmental community had been very wrong. While their report was not the first of its kind, the EWG is a big name among eco conscientious folk, and so their report was enough for many to finally sit up and take notice. 

For those who aren't familiar with Borax, it is a powdery white mineral that also goes by a few other names (just to make it confusing!): sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. A close cousin of borax is boric acid, which has many of the same concerns discussed below. If you are an obsessive label reader like me, knowing all of Borax's names helps you avoid this ingredient in its many forms. 

Most people come into contact with Borax through their cleaning products or personal care products. Yes, you read that right. The pesticide boric acid or sodium borate can also be found in personal care products. The cosmetic industry's own safety panel states that these chemicals are unsafe for infant or damaged skin, because they can absorb readily into the body. Despite this guidance, boric acid is found in some diaper creams
Both the European Union and Canada restrict these ingredients in body care products made for children under three years of age and require that products containing these ingredients be labeled as not appropriate for broken or damaged skin. No similar safety standards are in place in the United States.
As mentioned before, children get exposed to Borax when they play with goopy toys like silly putty, and other slimy toys may also contain boric acid. There are so many fun GAK and GOOP recipes online, but most contain Borax as the main ingredient. 
The problem with Borax is it can have short- and long-term health effects. 
Short-term irritant. Borax can be irritating when exposure occurs through skin or eye contact, inhalation or ingestion. Poison reports suggest misuse of borax-based pesticides can result in acute toxicity, with symptoms including vomiting, eye irritation, nausea, skin rash, oral irritation and respiratory effects. Toddlers and young children face special risks from hand-to-mouth transfer of carpet or crack and crevice, dust or spray borax treatments.
The really scary part when talking about Borax and children is this:

Hormone disruption. Borax and its cousin, boric acid, may disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system. Men working in boric acid-producing factories have a greater risk of decreased sperm count and libido. According to EPA's safety review of these pesticides, chronic exposure to high doses of borax or boric acid causes testicular atrophy in male mice, rats and dogs.
Animal studies reviewed by the EPA indicate that while the female reproductive system is less sensitive to borax, exposure to it can also lead to reduced ovulation and fertility. Borax and boric acid can cross the placenta, affecting fetal skeletal development and birth weight in animal studies of high-dose exposures.
In its 2006 review of the safety of borax pesticides, the EPA declined to perform a risk assessment that included exposures from cleaning supplies, cosmetics and other consumer goods along with professional and consumer pest-control products. As a result, it's difficult to assess the level of risk that may be involved in using borax in your home. 
In light of the reproductive effects reported in both animal and worker studies, I can't imagine why anyone, knowing the risks, would use it around children or expose themselves to it if they intend to have children one day. So if you didn't know before, now you do, and you can tell your family and friends and neighbors and strangers on the street. You're welcome. :-)


  1. Borax is very different than boric acid. Borax is mined from the earth most of its compounds can be found in the ocean. Its true some studies suggest if ingested in high amouns may lead to some health problems just like to much of anything. Its still a class 1 irritant like salt or harsh soap if worried just don't ingest it, it is not absorbed by skin and is not an antagonist for causing cancer 1/2 a teaspoon for making putty is safe just don't let the little one eat it although not tasty some kids still like putting things in their mouth u can also use it for detergent but if ingestion is the concern dont use it as dish soap.But please don't get borax confused with boric acid as many articles do hope this was helpful. And the banned on ingesting it in Europe may also be due to high concentration of it there :-)

  2. :( borax is different from what you are talking about...borax is used as a laundry booster...and has been since the 1800's


  3. The report that EWG cited a paper. The paper is about pesticides. The article states that "The Agency also considered exposures from non-pesticidal sources of boron (consumer products such as laundry detergent or general purpose cleaners, and pesticidal products containing boric acid or sodium borate salts as inerts). …. these exposure scenarios would not be a significant source of boron internal dosing and would not contribute significantly to total daily boron exposure when compared to the diet.”

  4. Boron (the element) and borax (the compound) and boric acid (the pesticide) are three different chemicals. Your article is confusing them with each other.

  5. good suppressed sheep, parroting back propaganda/disinformation to keep your children sick and ignorant slaves.(borax is a cure for many things)

    1. Too true, in fact anyone who actually reads up the official facts can see what a load of old tosh this article is. It makes me cross, sure you need to be careful not to overdose but I happily consumed 30mg of borax in solution per day for a year AND got my wife pregnant first try! According to this article my bollocks should have withered away and I should have died a painful death!! Still here...


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