Toxicity of boric acid, borax and other boron containing compounds: A review

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2021 Apr:121:104873. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2021.104873. Epub 2021 Jan 22.


Boron, often in the form of boric acid, is widely used as a flame retardant in insulation products, and although humans ingest boron through food, high exposure may lead to unwanted health effects. We assessed the toxicity of boric acid, borax and other forms of boron, after inhalation, dermal and oral exposure. After oral exposure, boron is absorbed over the gastrointestinal tract. Intact skin seems to pose a more effective barrier to boron than compromised skin. Boron excretion seems to mainly occur via the urine, although after skin exposure boron has been demonstrated in bile and gastrointestinal contents. Inhalation toxicity data are sparse, but one animal study showed reduced foetal weight after inhalation of cellulose that had a boric acid content of 20%. Skin exposure to boric acid has proven fatal in some cases, and the range of toxicity effects include abdominal as well as local effects on the skin. Fatalities from boric acid also have occurred after oral ingestion, and the endpoints in animals are weight loss and reproductive toxicity. Concerning genotoxicity studies, the overall picture indicates that boron-containing compounds are not genotoxic. There was no evidence of the carcinogenicity of boric acid in a 2-year study in mice.

Keywords: Chromosomal aberrations; Comet assay; Dermal; Inhalation; Micronuclei; Micronucleus; Mutation; Oral.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Boron Compounds / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Skin Absorption


  • Boron Compounds