Boric acid

Boric acid, also called boron or borax, is found naturally in the environment. It can also be used in common consumer products. Learn about this chemical and if it's safe for Canadians.

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What is boric acid?

Boric acid is a common form of boron, a naturally occurring element found in different minerals. Natural sources include:

  • water
  • volcanoes
  • sea salt spray
  • rocks and soil dust
  • food, such as fruits and vegetables

It can be found in everyday products, such as:

  • cosmetics
  • pesticides
  • cleaning products
  • swimming pool and spa chemicals
  • drugs and natural health products

Many recipes available online also use boric acid as an ingredient to make homemade arts and crafts materials, such as:

  • putty
  • dough
  • slimes
  • modelling clay

Is boric acid safe?

Natural sources of boric acid in food are considered safe. Canadians should continue to eat a balanced diet according to Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide.

Because Canadians are already exposed to boric acid in their diet, reducing exposure from other sources is recommended to avoid overexposure.

Overexposure to boric acid

We have assessed the potential risk of boric acid to Canadians from both human-made and natural sources. This scientific evaluation is called a chemical risk assessment. It identifies health or safety concerns.

This assessment is being released for a 60-day consultation period. It shows that overexposure to boric acid could cause developmental and reproductive health effects.

The concern is not with any single product, but rather multiple exposures from a variety of sources.

Regulations exist to limit the amount of boric acid in some products that Canadians use.

Sources of exposure to boric acid other than food and water should be minimized as much as possible, especially for children and pregnant women.

Exposure to boric acid from pesticides

We recently re-evaluated the pesticide uses of boric acid, which included the control of insects and fungi in:

  • structures
  • wood and its related products

Our final decision grants continued registration for most pesticide uses of boric acid. However, these products will have stronger label requirements to better protect the health of Canadians. Products used in and around the home will only be allowed in areas that children and pets can't access, such as:

  • behind appliances
  • cracks and crevices
  • pest bait stations that are enclosed

Spot treatments using a gel formula will also remain registered.

Of the 112 pesticide products registered in Canada that contain boric acid, 25 will be cancelled. These products include:

  • solutions which are not in enclosed bait stations
  • domestic products with dust, powder or granular formulas
  • one commercial product used in poultry houses and barns

The remaining 87 pesticides will have to meet new labelling requirements.

The concern related to boric acid is one of overall exposure, rather than an immediate risk. Companies will have 2 years after the publication of the final risk assessment to:

  • phase out a product
  • make the required label changes

Ongoing protective measures

Canada is currently reviewing boric acid and will provide an update after we have completed our final assessment. The results from the draft chemical assessment are currently open for public comment.

Specifically, we're looking into amounts of boric acid in:

  • cleaning products
  • pool and spa chemicals
  • creams, lotions and other cosmetics
  • homemade arts and crafts materials as well as toys

We will continue to monitor the use of boric acid in products sold in Canada. If a product is a risk to consumers, we're ready to act quickly to protect Canadians from chemical exposure.

To learn more about how Canada reviews chemicals, visit Canada's system for addressing chemicals.

How can Canadians minimize their exposure to boric acid?

The main way to minimize your exposure to boric acid is to check product labels for terms such as:

  • borax
  • borate
  • boric acid

You can also:

Other ways to avoid exposure to boric acid include the following.

Do not make homemade pesticides with boric acid as an ingredient.

When making children's arts and crafts at home like slimes, use recipes that do not contain boric acid.

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