TikTokers are ingesting borax in a new trend viewers are calling “insane,” and experts are calling “patently dangerous.”
The trend recently gained viral attention when TikTok user @chem.thug, a PhD candidate in synthetic organic chemistry, took to the app to warn people against “recklessly poisoning” themselves by ingesting borax.
The video — which quickly garnered more than 1.8 million views, 325,000 likes, 14,000 saves and 19,000 comments — contained a compilation of TikTokers within the “natural/holistic medicine” community who are ignoring the warnings of 20 Mule Team Borax and consuming it as a sort of tonic.
“It’s insane this has to be said,” wrote user @wommar.
“Purely from seeing what it does when I use it on laundry…….what an insane leap to willingly ingest it,” commented @justsomeplantsandprints.
In The Know by Yahoo spoke to Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor — a medical toxicology physician and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center — to learn why this new borax trend is so dangerous.
What is borax?
“Borax is a chemical that contains the element boron. Borax and boric acid are used in disinfectants, and ant and roach killers,” explained Johnson-Arbor.
According to 20 Mule Team Borax’s website, borax is a mineral made up of sodium, oxygen and boron mined in Central and Southern California. “20 Mule Team™ simply refines the raw Borax that is mined from the ground and converts it to a powder for your easy use,” they write.
Those uses, according to their website, include cleaning, laundry, odor control and arts/crafts.
“Borax is not intended for use as a personal care product or dietary supplement,” their safety information page reads.
Why are people consuming borax?
“Borax consumption has been recently popularized on TikTok as a way to treat inflammation, but borax is actually a poisonous compound and should never be eaten,” Johnson-Arbor explained.
“There is no evidence that swallowing borax has any human health benefits,” she adds.
Despite this, many natural medicine websites claim that borax can be ingested to combat arthritis, osteoporosis, lupus, candida and more.
As for boron, the trace element that makes up borax, while it is naturally present in many foods and available as a dietary supplement, there is currently insufficient data to support its health benefits.
“Boron is not classified as an essential nutrient for humans because research has not yet identified a clear biological function for boron,” reports the National Institutes of Health.
“In humans, boron deficiency signs and symptoms have not been firmly established.”
What are the side effects of consuming borax?
According to Johnson-Arbor, “When swallowed, borax causes nausea, vomiting, stomach irritation. Skin rashes can also occur. Chronic consumption of borax can lead to anemia and seizures. In severe cases, death can occur.”
She advises, “Please do not eat this poisonous compound, and only use it as directed on the product label.”
Because of these side effects, and the fact that it is not made for human consumption, 20 Mule Team Borax is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As the company reports on its FDA Status page: “U.S. Borax does not offer any product that we approve nor intend for use as a dietary ingredient, pharmaceutical and/or over-the-counter (OTC) active ingredient, nor food additive or direct additive to foods. Our NF grade products are labeled as ‘NOT FOR INTERNAL USE’ and thus are not intended for internal related applications nor as an active ingredient. … None of our products or facilities are registered with the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration.”
Such warnings are also echoed on its safety information page: “Although safe when used as intended, Borax should not be used undiluted or in contact with the eyes or swallowed.”
What should you do if you ingest borax?
“For questions about unwanted or unexpected symptoms that occur after exposure to borax, contact poison control immediately,” advises Johnson-Arbor.
“There are two ways to contact poison control in the United States: online at www.poison.org or by phone at 1-800-222-1222. Both options are free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day.”
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