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Borax challenge: The latest harmful health trend taking over TikTok and why you should avoid it

A new challenge spreading on TikTok falsely claims that ingesting borax can have beneficial effects.
A new challenge spreading on TikTok falsely claims that ingesting borax can have beneficial effects. Copyright AP Photo/Matt York, File
Copyright AP Photo/Matt York, File
By Giulia Carbonaro
Published on Updated
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TikTok videos promoting the ingestion of a powdery laundry detergent have gone viral, with users falsely claiming that the substance isn’t toxic.

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Dubbed by health specialists as the “stupidest health trend” they have ever seen, Borax has taken over certain quarters of TikTok, with several users talking about having "jumped on the Borax train" - an alleged body cleanse trend that involves the use of a powdery household cleaner.

Borax - which is also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate - is a naturally occurring mineral that combined boron, sodium, and oxygen.

It’s far from a new discovery and has been widely used as a household cleaner and laundry detergent for years, while it can also be found in small doses in toothpaste, cosmetics, and pesticides.

But it’s only recently that the substance has taken on a life of its own on TikTok, where users have started praising the alleged benefits of ingesting the mineral in viral videos.

What’s the #boraxchallenge - and why is it bad?

Adding a pinch of borax to a glass of water, TikTokers say, can help manage several health conditions - including erectile dysfunction and kidney stones. Others say that bathing with a pinch of borax in the tub water will make your skin look better.

But there is absolutely no evidence that ingesting borax can have any of these health benefits - quite the opposite.

According to the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, if breathed in, borax can cause irritation in the eyes, skin, and upper respiratory system, as well as dermatitis, nosebleeds, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

WebMD, a platform for health news and information, writes that borax can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested by itself, while large amounts can lead to shock and kidney failure. In the US, borax is banned from food products.

Medical experts on TikTok and in the media are speaking out against the trend, warning users against the dangers of ingesting borax.

"Just because it's natural it doesn’t mean it’s good for you to eat. Remember that arsenic is also natural," a medical doctor who goes by the name of Dr Idz on TikTok said in a video posted on the platform.

The claim that borax isn’t toxic - in small or any doses - as claimed by some on TikTok, has been debunked by fact-checkers at Full Fact, who determined that the substance is recognised as being toxic to reproductive health, as stated by the European Chemical Agency.

The agency writes that borax “may damage fertility and may damage the unborn child” and is considered dangerous according to the EU’s harmonised classification and labelling.

The ECA adds that borax was previously approved for use as a biocide - a chemical substance used to control harmful organisms, like pesticides - in the EEA and/or Switzerland, but the approval has now expired.

Asked about the spread of misinformation on the platform, TikTok told several news media, including Vox and NBC News, that they didn’t look at the borax challenge as a trend and that the majority of the videos about it were counterpoints to ingesting the substance.

Euronews Next has contacted TikTok for comment.

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