Boric acid or Borax is hardly a new chemical. Anthropologists have found evidence that suggests the Ancient Chinese were using boric acid in ceramic glazes as early as the 10th century. By 1702, the secret to producing boric acid in laboratories had been perfected and by the late 19th century, the first cleaning products that contained boric acid or Borax were being manufactured.
As a cleaning agent, Borax's benefits are undeniable. Boric acid has the ability to amplify the effects of bleach and other cleansing agents and is capable of eliminating bacteria. With its proven effectiveness, Borax is a commonplace ingredient in many kitchen cleaners; however, the more we learn about the effects of boric acid on the body, the more the safety of its use becomes questionable.
Several studies have determined that Borax is a toxin that can have profound effects on the body. One 2009 research trial conducted at Thammasat University in Thailand, for example, found that the chemical has the ability to cause genetic defects and cellular toxicity in humans. A 2006 research study conducted by the USDA Forest Service showed the potential for boric acid to cause myriad reproductive problems from sterility to low fetal birth weights.
Still, proponents of boric acid state that high doses of boric acid are required to cause toxicity. Also, many studies focus on the ingestion of boric acid, not its use as a surface cleaning agent or detergent. Still, one can't help but wonder just how safe it is to bite into an apple that has been sitting on a counter top that was just cleaned with Borax scrub.
Many green cleaning companies now offer products that are free of boric acid, packaging them in biodegradable wipes that are easy to use. While the health effects of boric acid still remain in question, switching to chemical-free cleaning can give you some peace of mind.
What do you think about Borax? Do you know what products in your home contain it?