Sodium tetraborate sources, health risks

Thursday, November 09, 2017 by

Not to be confused with our favorite banana-thong-wearing comedian, sodium tetraborate is more known as Borax. The white, crystalline powder is typically found in dry lake deposits around California, U.S.A. and Turkey. Borax is a highly popular antifungal additive in medicine and food. Normally manufacturers add the powder to regulate the pH of various products. The compound has also found its uses in many detergents, laundry, and cleaning products. Borax is likewise used as an alternative to mercury in gold mining, and is also used as a neutron-capture in nuclear reactors.

Sodium tetraborate is not known to be toxic nor irritating. Nevertheless, several studies have concluded that prolonged consumption or exposure to the substance can cause cancer. There is also a risk that Borax can influence gestation; contributing to a higher likelihood of spontaneous loss (miscarriage) or just an overall difficult pregnancy.

Harmful effects that can be caused by sodium tetraborate

Reading about Borax is a little confusing. Some health groups say that the compound is a greener alternative to many household cleaners or antifungal agents. Even so, any box that contains sodium tetraborate highly cautions the user of the “potential dangers” ingestion can bring. Young children are warned that eating the powder can cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Parents are told to seek immediate medical attention. Take note that a single teaspoon of Borax can be fatal to a very small child.

Borax should be safe if it comes into contact with the skin. However, the powder can cause irritation, redness, and swelling if it enters a cut or any form of abrasion. Those who have to handle the powder are told to wear rubber gloves.

There is very little danger of inhaling sodium tetraborate, as it usually comes as a stable powder. All the same, please exercise caution when you’re handling the compound – especially if you’re working in an area with carpets. The powder can be easily inhaled by crawling family members and/or pets. There are no studies on what can happen if Borax is inhaled but medical doctors say that it can be harmful.

Pregnant women should avoid the substance entirely. There is moderate concern that Borax can negatively affect reproductive health.

Body systems harmed by sodium tetraborate

Borax can harm the digestive tract and skin. It can also damage a developing fetus.

Where to learn more


Sodium tetraborate is known as Borax and is a white powder that is mined from dry lakes around California and Turkey. It is used as an antifungal agent and as a detergent. There is not a lot of research of their potential health hazards, but scientists have said that the substance can be fatal to young children if ingested. Pregnant women are also told to avoid the powder.

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