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A Dangerous TikTok Health Trend Has People Eating The Laundry Detergent Booster Borax

While borax is “natural,” it’s still toxic.

Originally Published: 
A dangerous new health trend, not backed by science, as people eating borax, a cleaner and pesticide...
@danaisabellaaa, @chem.thug, @rootsofhealing / TikTok

Remember when everyone was up in arms, thinking that the kids weren’t all right after that viral trend encouraging young people to snack on some laundry detergent pods? Yeah. Well, it turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because there are now grown adults scooping literal powder laundry detergent into their morning elixir in a new viral TikTok trend that most are referring to as “jumping on the borax train.”

People are praising the so-called health benefits of eating or drinking borax on TikTok, swearing that a couple scoops has changed their whole health journey. After the borax TikTok trend took off, health professionals and chemists are begging people to please stop eating laundry booster.

What is the borax TikTok trend?

Borax is a salt that is typically seen in a white, powdery substance also known as sodium borate. The powder is a combination of boron, sodium, oxygen, and hydrogen. It's a colorless crystalline solid that dissolves in water to make a basic solution. It is most commonly used as a cleaning agent or pesticide to kill ants. Borax is also found in cleaners and laundry detergents. You might have used it with your kids to make homemade slime.

After a few TikTok content creators swore that ingesting borax —a cleaning agent and pesticide — had major health benefits like relieving joint pain, several others jumped on what they refer to as the “borax train” which basically means that, they too, are now scooping Borax (which you’ll find in the laundry aisle) and eating it or mixing it with their morning coffee.

Does borax have health benefits?

Several TikTok users are citing the work of Dr. Rex E. Newnham, a researcher who wrote multiple papers on using small amounts of borax to treat arthritis and osteoporosis, to back up their claims (as well as personal testimony). But while we know boron is essential to healthy bones and joints (and is found naturally in many common foods, like potatoes and leafy greens), there is little supporting research on boron supplements for arthritis.

There is certainly no research on taking laundry detergent grade borax for your health, without the guidance of a doctor, and the FDA has not approved borax or boron for joint pain or any other treatments.

Other reported health benefits touted by some TikTokers about borax include easing swelling in the mouth and eye, easing menstrual cramps, and even cancer treatment.

Is borax safe to eat?

After several TikTok users admitted to ingesting borax, one chemist working on his PhD in synthetic organic chemistry is begging people to please stop eating borax. TikTok user Chem Thug went viral with over 1.6 million viewers listening to the expert explain how this trend even got started and why it’s a terrible idea.

“Don't eat sh*t out of the f*cking laundry box, people,” he begins.

After doing some research and reading some academic papers on the potential health benefits to adding boron to your diet, he discovered that there is actually way more information out there about how detrimental boron (specifically borate compounds like sodium tetra borate) can be to the human body.

“Borax, is actually really not good for you. According to the literature, it can cause kidney failure. It can cause reproductive harm. It also can cause developmental issues,” he says.

“The small amount of research that does exist that seems to maybe say that it has some beneficial effects, even that suggests eating it in your diet because there are a lot of plants that are rich in boron and borates that aren't borax.”

Secondly, he points out the obvious — laundry detergent isn’t meant to be eaten. It’s not made for human consumption. So, don’t eat it!

He continues, “If something is made in a facility that doesn't make things for human consumption, there are certain controls that aren't in place. There are ingredients that can be used, there are processes that can be used that would not be used if this were a product intended for people to eat it. What this ultimately means is that not only is that final product maybe contaminated with all sorts of other things, but they also don't have to say that in the list of ingredients because it's not really meant for human consumption.”

He explains that the way borax is processed, packaged, shipped, and set on the shelves is not up to human consumption codes or standards.

“It's not for you to eat,” he explains.

Is borax toxic?

Borax can be toxic and can even be lethal when ingested in high amounts. Borax can cause gastrointestinal issues as well as nausea. Large amounts of borax can lead to shock and even kidney failure. It can also irritate your skin and eyes, nose, throat, and lungs if you breathe it in.

In severe cases of poisoning, borax can cause kidney damage, seizures, and death. Borax is banned in U.S. food products.

Chem Thug notes that he understands the motivation behind this bizarre and totally unsafe TikTok health trend.

He concluded, “Everybody wants to be healthy, everybody wants to make sure they get the right nutrients and minerals and some people, some of us live in food deserts and some of us don't have adequate access to medical care and that isn't our faults, but this is literally the opposite of that, you are actively poisoning yourselves.”

This should obviously be common sense, but if you don’t find it in the food section, if there are warning all over the packaging that the product is not made for human consumption — do not eat it!

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