What is Boric Acid?
Boric acid (also known as boracic acid or orthoboric acid) is a naturally occurring compound containing the elements hydrogen, boron and oxygen (H3BO3). In nature, the element boron does not exist by itself. Boron is combined with other common elements, such as sodium to make salts like borax and with oxygen to make boric acid. Boron is considered to be an essential micronutrient for plants and perhaps humans. Boron in the diet most commonly comes from the boric acid naturally present in most foods. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts are particularly high in boron. In fact, the average person eats between one to three milligrams of boron each day as part of a normal healthy diet. Boric acid also occurs naturally in water and soil.
Boric acid crystals are white, odourless, and nearly tasteless. It looks like fine table salt in the granular form or like baby powder in the powdered form. Borates (the general term associated with boron containing minerals such as borax and boric acid) most commonly originate in dried salt lake beds of deserts or in arid areas or other geographic regions that expose similar deposits
Uses of Boric Acid
- Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics: boric acid is a mild antiseptic as well as a mild acid that inhibits the growth of microorganisms on the external surfaces of the body.Â It can also be used for minor cuts and burns. It is commonly used in contact lens solutions, eye disinfectants, vaginal remedies, baby powder, anti-aging preparations and similar external applications.
- Nutritional Supplements: boric acid and other borates are increasingly being used in over-the counter nutritional supplements as a source of boron. It is thought that boron has a potential therapeutic value in promoting bone and joint health as well as having a limiting effect on arthritis symptoms. It is very important to note that the health effects of boric acid and boron-based supplements are based on very new studies and/or are based solely on the claims of the manufacturersâ€™ of the supplements. It should not be implied that boric acid should be directly ingested as a supplement or for any other reason.
- Flame Retardants: boric acid inhibits the release of combustible gases from burning cellulosic materials, such as wood, cotton, and paper-based products. Boric acid also releases chemically bonded water to further reduce combustion. A carbon char is formed that further inhibits combustion. Futons, mattresses, upholstered furniture, insulation, and gypsum board are common consumer items that use boric acid as a flame retardant. Plastics, textiles, specialty coatings, and other industrial products also contain boric acid to strengthen their ability to withstand exposure to flames.
- Glass and Fibreglass: heat resistant, borosilicate, and other specialty glasses rely on boric acid and other similar borates to increase the chemical and temperature resistance of the glass. Halogen light bulbs, ovenware, microwavable glassware, laboratory glassware, and many everyday glass items are enhanced by the addition of boric acid. Boric acid also aids in the manufacture of fibreglass, which is used as insulation as well as in textile fibreglass (a fabric-like material commonly used in skis, circuit boards, and other similar applications).
- Wood Preservatives: boric acid is a common source of boron compounds when used in the formulation of products that control fungus and insects. Fungi are plants that contain no chlorophyll and must have an outside source of food. Boron compounds inhibit the growth of fungus and have been demonstrated to be a reliable wood preservative. Similarly, boric acid is used in swimming pools and spas as a safer and â€œsofter feelingâ€ substitute for chlorine. Boric acid, borax, and other salts are commonly used to soften pool water and prevent contamination.
- Pest Control: Boric acid is a natural and increasingly popular insect control product. Unlike hornet or ant sprays, boric acid does not kill bugs on contact using highly toxic chemicals. Rather, it acts as a desiccant that dehydrates many insects by causing tiny cracks or fissures in their exoskeletons. This eventually dries them out. The saltiness of boric acid also interferes with their very simple electrolytic metabolism.
- Ear Wash for Dogs: Boric Acid can be mixed with vinegar, witch hazel and gentian violet to make an ear wash for dogs with a minor ear infection.