Postnatal Effects of Gestational and Lactational Gavage Exposure to Boric Acid in the Developing Sprague Dawley Rat

Toxicol Sci. 2020 Jul 1;176(1):65-73. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfaa061.


Human exposure to boron occurs primarily through diet and drinking water sources. Animal studies have found that reduced fetal weight following gestational exposure to boron (as boric acid) is the most sensitive toxicological effect. However, recent studies suggest that newborns in areas with elevated boron in drinking water may receive levels of exposure that exceed the U.S. EPA oral reference dose for B. Currently, there are no data to inform a boron risk assessment accounting for this developmental window. To address this knowledge gap, the National Toxicology Program evaluated developmental toxicity following pre- and postnatal boron exposure. Time-mated female Sprague Dawley (Hsd: Sprague Dawley SD) rats were administered 0-20 mg B/kg/day (as boric acid) via gavage from gestation day 6 to 21; offspring were dosed via gavage at the same respective dose level from postnatal day (PND) 1 to 28. There were no dose-related effects on dam bodyweight, bodyweight gain, or feed consumption. Clinical findings were limited to low incidences of umbilical hernia in the 20 mg B/kg pups which resolved by study completion. Pup plasma boron concentrations increased in dose-proportional manner and were similar between PND 4 and PND 28. Postnatal weight gain was significantly reduced at 20 mg B/kg, with male and female pups weighing 23% less than the controls on PND 28. These findings demonstrate that postnatal growth in the Sprague Dawley rat is sensitive to boron exposure and highlights the importance of evaluating the potential toxicity of agents with known human exposures during early life stages.

Keywords: boric acid; boron; postnatal; prenatal; umbilical hernia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Boric Acids / toxicity*
  • Dietary Exposure*
  • Female
  • Lactation
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reproduction


  • Boric Acids
  • boric acid