Borax was first mined in the Mojave Desert in the late 1880s, when wagon teams of 18 mules and two horses pulled huge loads of it out of Death Valley. A chemical compound, borax contains the element boron. Three-quarters of the world’s boron reserves are in Turkey, while the rest is mined from the town of Boron, California.
Since it was discovered, borax has been used for many reasons and has recently been the subject of a popular TikTok challenge. However, the challenge claims that it will improve a variety of health conditions, ranging from arthritis to erectile dysfunction, which isn’t backed by scientific evidence.
People are consuming borax by mixing it into water or another liquid. Others are bathing in it. But spreading this misinformation could put some people's health at risk. Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn’t try this challenge.
1. It’s Boron That May Have Health Benefits, Not Borax
Borax is not a food grade product. But boron is a naturally occurring trace element that is considered a micronutrient. There is no consensus on the health benefits of boron, however, some research suggests that in appropriate, nutritional amounts, boron is associated with promoting brain function, spurring the action of hormones and even decreasing certain cancers.
While there are boron supplements available, you can also consume it naturally. There are many foods that are a part of a healthy diet and contain boron. These foods include:
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2. Borax Has Many Uses — But Is Not Meant For Ingesting
Borax is a product with several household uses that include cleaning laundry, preserving fresh flowers, cleaning cookware or tile floors and showers. It can also sanitize garbage disposals, kill weeds and unclog drains. Borax is also used for industrial purposes, including:
An emulsifier in cosmetic products
The production of glass and ceramics
A fire retardant
An iron and steel melting agent
The production of cell phone screens
An herbicide and fungicide
While borax’s applications are varied and plentiful, experts recommend not to consume the product.
3. Consuming Borax Can Cause Harmful Effects
A search on TikTok for the #boraxchallenge will reveal over 323 million views. There are many videos where people profess the benefits of consuming and/or bathing in borax — while others attempt to debunk the misinformation. In reality, borax can cause several detrimental effects when consumed, including:
If consumed in toxic amounts, borax can also cause alopecia, anemia, seizures, organ damage to the kidneys and liver, and even death. For children, a toxic amount means as little as 5 to 10 grams. For adults, the toxic amount would occur at approximately 10 to 25 grams. Furthermore, the inhalation of borax can irritate the respiratory system, leading to breathing issues.
4. Health Tips on Social Media May Not Be Accurate
Over the years, there have been previous social media trends or challenges that have caused harm. The Tide Pod, Benadryl, dry scooping protein powder and cinnamon, nutmeg and salt challenges are some of the detrimental TikTok challenges that became popular. Some TikTok challenges have even been life-threatening.
Unfortunately, people do turn to the Internet and social media for health/medical advice. A 2022 study found that 37 percent of Americans seek and follow the advice of influencers, rather than that of a heath professional, because they view influencers as more accessible. It’s important to do your research and to contact the appropriate medical professionals before participating in a challenge that could impact your health.
If you or someone you know has ingested borax, contact the poison control hotline at 800.222.1222.