Is Boric Acid Safe for Humans?

Boric acid is not safe for humans.
Boric acid is not safe for humans.

Boric acid is not safe for humans. Boric acid poisoning may be acute or chronic. Acute poisoning occurs when individuals swallow powdered cockroach-killing products that contain boric acid. Chronic poisoning occurs when individuals are repeatedly exposed to boric acid. In the past, a diluted boric acid solution was used to clean and dress the wounds. Individuals repeatedly exposed to the dilute boric acid eventually developed boric acid poisoning. The symptoms of boric acid poisoning include:

Boric acid may also cause death if there is a perforation in the esophagus and stomach, which may result in serious infections in both the chest and abdominal cavities.

What is boric acid?

Boric acid is a pesticide found in nature and many other products. They are mainly used to kill mites, fungi, plants, and insects, including fleas, termites, cockroaches, and wood decay fungi.

Boric acid is mainly found in:

  • Antiseptics and astringents
  • Enamels and glazes
  • Medicated powders
  • Skin lotions
  • Some paints
  • Glass fiber manufacturing
  • Rodent and ant pesticides
  • Photography chemicals
  • Powders to kill roaches
  • Some eyewash products

How does boric acid act?

Boric acid can disrupt the stomach and affect the nervous system of the insects. It can also scratch and damage the exterior of insects. The borax acts by:

  • Drying out the plants
  • Stopping plants from producing the energy they need from the light
  • Stopping the growth of fungi by preventing them from reproducing

What to do if you had boric acid poisoning?

If the skin is exposed to boric acid, wash the area immediately with plenty of running water.

If the chemical comes in contact with the eyes, rinse the eyes with cool water for 15 minutes.

If boric acid is swallowed, seek emergency medical treatment.

How does the physician treat boric acid poisoning?

At the emergency room, the person may receive:

  • Airway support, including oxygen, intubation, and ventilator
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Endoscopy to check for burns in the stomach and esophagus
  • Chest X-ray
  • Fluids through vein
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Medications to subside the symptoms
  • Hemodialysis may help to clear the boric acid from the blood and prevent damage to kidneys and gastrointestinal tract
  • Gastric lavage (a tube inserted in the stomach to clear out its contents) with charcoal powder may help reduce absorption in the body.

In the case of skin exposure, the treatment includes:

  • Debridement (surgical removal) of skin surfaces
  • Irrigation (rinsing the skin), possibly every few hours for several days
  • The physician may recommend surgery if the acid perforates the esophagus, stomach, or intestine.

What happens to boric acid in the environment?

Boric acid naturally occurs in the environment, especially in the soil, water, and plants. Boric acid dissolves in water and can move with water through the soil. Boric acid is taken up by the plants and moves to the leaves. It is stored in the leaves and does not move into the fruit. Plants need boric acid for their growth; however, too much boric acid can be toxic to plants affecting their growth.


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Boone C, Bond C, Stone D. 2012. Boric Acid General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. 2012.

Medline Plus. Boric Acid Poisoning.,products%20that%20contain%20the%20chemical.&text=Chronic%20poisoning%20occurs%20in%20those%20who%20are%20repeatedly%20exposed%20to%20boric%20acid.

Bakar BA, Yosuf NA, Abdulamir AS. Risk and Health Effect of Boric Acid. American Journal of Applied Sciences. January 2010;7(5).