Borates: An Integral Part of Nature

Borates are part of the natural world, present in water, rocks, soil, plants, and people. The earth consists of trace amounts of more than 200 minerals that contain boron. While the exact role of borates in human health has yet to be determined, their role as essential ingredients in a vast array of products and processes has been established for centuries.

Borates in Nature

Support safe handling and use in industry settings

Borates abound in industrial systems as well, for two reasons:

  • First, they’re safe when properly used: Used for centuries, borates pose minimal risk to people, animals, or the environment under normal industrial handling and use conditions.
  • Second, they’re versatile: In some applications, there is simply no substitute for borates. In others, their natural functions impart a wide range of performance, cost, environmental, health, and safety advantages.

Best practices for safe use

20 Mule Team® Borax borax decahydrate, Neobor® disodium tetraborate pentahydrate, Optibor® boric acid, and other inorganic borates are safe (when properly handled) in a variety of industrial applications. These borates have a low acute toxicity in mammals and are negligibly absorbed through intact skin. Users should refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and follow normal practices of industrial hygiene, such as avoiding inhalation of dust. 

For more information about borates’ health and safety, refer to our product Safety Data Sheets. You can find a link to each product’s SDSs on the applicable product page.

Frequently asked questions about boron safety

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about boron and its health and safety effects and benefits.

Q: What do toxicology studies show?

A: Scientists conduct studies to determine both the level at which boron is harmful and the level at which boron is beneficial to health. Laboratory animals that ingested high doses of borates over long periods have shown adverse developmental and reproductive effects. In studies where boron is completely removed from the diet and environment, similar adverse effects occur. In other words, too little boron is as bad as too much. 

Q: What do studies of populations or workers exposed to high levels of borates show?

A: No evidence of adverse reproductive effects attributable to boron have been observed in epidemiological studies of borate workers and populations with high exposures to boron.

Q: What would happen if you accidentally ingested a very high dose of borates?

A: An extremely high intake of borates would make most people vomit. But it is nearly impossible to be exposed to such quantities through eating foods or using products that contain borates. We’ve been mining and refining borates for more than 135 years. Evaluation of our workers—who are exposed to higher levels of borates than most people—have shown no adverse developmental or reproductive effects. In most instances where people have experienced artificially high borate intake, vomiting or excretion in urine has been rapid, and blood and tissue concentrations were quickly back to normal.

Q: What does U.S. Borax do to protect people from possible risk?

A: All our operations comply with all applicable safety regulations and make safety training a priority. Learn more about our commitment to keep our workplaces safe.

We commit to communicating what we know about the health, safety, and environmental impacts of borates as widely as possible. We produce Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) on all our products that clearly outline safe use and handling practices. These SDSs are given to our customers, available to the public, and on file with regulatory agencies around the world. You can download each product’s SDS on the applicable product page.

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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