There are some TikTok trends out there that just don’t work. They’ve been debunked or deemed unable to help you achieve perfect skin or clearer sinuses, for instance. A lot of these trends aren’t helpful, but they’re also innocuous and generally nonthreatening. Then there are others – like this summer’s trend of ingesting borax – that are outright harmful to your health.
When the “#boraxchallenge” hashtag emerged on TikTok this year, videos of users sprinkling the powdery, white, chemical compound into their water and drinking it started to filter out videos of people using borax appropriately, as a multipurpose cleaning hack.
There are pockets of TikTok that are ripe with misinformation, and this trend falls firmly into that. Some users tout borax as a cure for everything from smoother skin to better bone and joint health. But at least one medical professional with an account on the short-form video platform has dubbed this “the dumbest health trend ever.”
What is borax?
Also known as sodium borate, borax is a boron-containing compound found in many household cleaning products. It is commonly used as a household cleaner and booster for laundry detergent. Borax is a combination of boron, sodium and oxygen. In the World War I days it was used a preservative in food to prevent spoilage. Small doses of the ingredient is found in some specialty toothpastes and mouthwashes, as well as lotions, skin creams, moisturizers, sunscreens and acne care products.
Borax is a natural substance – often found and mined from dry lake beds all over the world – leading participants in the dangerous trend to defend it. And although the National Library of Medicine classifies borax as a noncarcinogenic, its list of health risks if ingested is long.
Debunking borax as a health hack
The National Capital Poison Center warns against putting a pinch of Borax in your beverage to pursue some of the alleged “health benefits” listed above, stating there is “minimal evidence supporting a link between boron and anti-inflammatory activity in humans.”
Studies have found borax to cause skin, eye and respiratory tract irritation, as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Ingest it for weeks on end and you could develop anemia and seizures, according to the National Capital Poison Center. Infertility and digestive problems are other risks.
The #boraxchallenge hashtag currently has more than 270.5 million views. In late July, a TikTok spokesperson told media publications that most of the content surrounding the topic has been “counter-speech.” The TikTok influencer who helped popularize the borax trend had her video removed by the platform for violating misinformation rules. If you search and click #boraxchallenge today, many of the top videos are accounts warning against the trend and advising other users not to try it.
Obviously, everyone should avoid ingesting the chemical compound. If you are exposed to it accidentally, seek immediate medical help. Call poison control and other emergency services if necessary.
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