What Is It?
From the U.S. EPA’s health advisory for boron:
“Boron is a non-metallic, naturally-occurring, element found in rocks, soil, and water. Boron does not exist as a pure element but is combined with oxygen as borate minerals and various boron compounds such as boric acid, borax, and boron oxide. The boron compounds listed above are odorless crystals, granules, or powders. Elemental boron is insoluble in water and boric acid and borax are slightly soluble in water. “
Is It Harmful?
“An acute overdose to infants has caused diarrhea, vomiting, signs of irritability, erythema in the diaper area, a mild red rash on the face and neck, a pus-like discharge or mild congestion of the eye, and possibly convulsive seizures. In adults, an acute overdose causes nausea, vomiting, redness of the skin, difficulty swallowing due to ulcers in the throat, and a non-bloody diarrhea. In animals, acute excessive exposure has caused lethargy, rapid respiration, eye inflammation, swelling of the paws, shedding of the skin on the paws and tails, excitation during handling, and changes in the cells of the forestomach.”
What is the Maximum Contaminant Level?
“As levels of boron in drinking water increase above the One-Day and Ten-Day Health Advisory (3.0 mg/L) and the Longer Term Health Advisory (2.0 mg/L) for children, the risk for the potential effect on the testes of young males increases when consumed for the duration indicated by the advisory. As the level of boron in drinking water increases above the Longer Term Health Advisory and Lifetime Health Advisory for adults (5 mg/L), the risk for the potential effect on the fetuses of pregnant women and the testes of males increases. […] Water containing boron at levels above the HA should not be used to prepare food or formula for infants and children.”
How Can I Test for It?
“The Federal Government does not regulate boron in drinking water and, public drinking water systems are not required to monitor for this contaminant. Some states have drinking water standards or guidelines for boron (California, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin); these range from 0.6 to 1 mg/L. You may want to call your drinking water utility or state drinking water program to determine if monitoring is required in your state.”
Additionally, you can test for boron at home with a do-it-yourself test kit, or by sending a sample in to a lab. Our Clean Water Test comes with a bottle with which to collect your sample and mail it to our lab, and includes tests for boron as well as many other contaminants like bacteria, pH, hardness, TDS, and more.
How Can I Treat It?
Boron can be treated most effectively with a boron-specific ion exchange resin in a water softening system, or with a reverse osmosis system.