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Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boroncompound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve in water. A number of closely related minerals or chemical compounds that differ in their crystal water content are referred to as borax, and the word is usually used to refer to the octahydrate. Commercially sold borax is partially dehydrated.
In artisanal gold mining, borax is sometimes used as part of a process known as the borax method (as a flux) meant to eliminate the need for toxic mercury in the gold extraction process, although it cannot directly replace mercury. Borax was reportedly used by gold miners in parts of the Philippines in the 1900s.
When borax is added to a flame, it produces a yellow-green color. Borax is not used for this purpose in fireworks due to the overwhelming yellow color of sodium. Boric acid is used to color methanol flames a transparent green.
Borax is very soluble in ethylene glycol, moderately soluble in diethylene glycol and methanol, slightly soluble in acetone. It is poorly soluble in cold water, but its solubility increases significantly with temperature.
The English word borax is Latinized: the Middle English form was boras, from Old Frenchboras, bourras. That may have been from medieval Latin baurach (another English spelling), borac(-/um/em), borax, along with Spanish borrax (> borraj) and Italian borrace, in the 9th century. Another name for borax is tincal, from Sanskrit.
The word tincal/ˈtɪŋkəl/ "tinkle", or tincar/ˈtɪŋkər/ "tinker", refers to crude borax, before it is purified, as mined from lake deposits in Tibet, Persia, and other parts of Asia. The word was adopted in the 17th century from Malay tingkal and from Urdu/Persian/Arabic تنکار tinkār/tankār; thus the two forms in English. These all appear to be related to the Sanskrit टांकण ṭānkaṇa.
Borate ions (commonly supplied as boric acid) are used in biochemical and chemical laboratories to make buffers, e.g. for polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of DNA and RNA, such as TBE buffer (borate buffered tris-hydroxymethylaminomethonium) or the newer SB buffer or BBS buffer (borate buffered saline) in coating procedures. Borate buffers (usually at pH 8) are also used as preferential equilibration solution in dimethyl pimelimidate (DMP) based crosslinking reactions.
Borax has been promoted for use in place of highly toxic mercury for extracting gold in small-scale mining facilities. There is evidence that, in addition to reducing the environmental impact, this method achieves better gold recovery for suitable ores and is less expensive. This borax method is used in northern Luzon in the Philippines, but miners have been reluctant to adopt it elsewhere for reasons that are not well understood. The method has also been promoted in Bolivia and Tanzania.
Used as a flux for melting metals and alloys in casting to draw out impurities and prevent oxidation.
Used as a woodworm treatment (diluted in water)
Slows down leviathans.
Borax, sodium tetraborate decahydrate, according to one study, is not acutely toxic. Its LD50 (median lethal dose) score is tested at 2.66 g/kg in rats, meaning that a significant dose of the chemical is needed to cause severe symptoms or death. The lethal dose is not necessarily the same for humans. On pesticide information websites it is listed as a non-lethal compound and of no hazardous concerns.
Borax has been in use as an insecticide in the United States with various restrictions since 1946. All restrictions were removed in February 1986 due to the low toxicity of borax, as reported in two EPA documents relating to boric acid and borax.
EPA has determined that, because they are of low toxicity and occur naturally, boric acid and its sodium salts should be exempted from the requirement of a tolerance (maximum residue limit) for all raw agricultural commodities.
Although it cited inconclusive data, a re-evaluation in 2006 by the EPA still found that "There were no signs of toxicity observed during the study and no evidence of cytotoxicity to the target organ." In the reevaluation, a study of toxicity due to overexposure was checked and the findings were that "The residential handler inhalation risks due to boric acid and its sodium salts as active ingredients are not a risk concern and do not exceed the level of concern..." but that there could be some risk of irritation to children inhaling it if used as a powder for cleaning rugs.
Sodium tetraborate decahydrate has no known hazard issues.[clarification needed]
Overexposure to borax dust can cause respiratory irritation, while no skin irritation is known to exist due to external borax exposure. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal distress including nausea, persistent vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Effects on the vascular system and human brain include headaches and lethargy, but are less frequent. In severe cases, a "beefy" red rash affecting the palms, soles, buttocks and scrotum has occurred. 
The Indonesian Directorate of Consumer Protection warns of the risk of liver cancer with high consumption of borax over a period of 5–10 years.
Risk to fertility and pregnancy
Borax was added to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list on December 16, 2010. The SVHC candidate list is part of the EU Regulations on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals 2006 (REACH), and the addition was based on the revised classification of borax as toxic for reproduction category 1B under the CLP Regulations. Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings "May damage fertility" and "May damage the unborn child". It was proposed for addition to REACH Annex XIV by the ECHA on July 1, 2015. If this recommendation is approved, all imports and uses of borax in the EU will have to be authorized by the ECHA.[needs update]
Review of the boron toxicity (as boric acid and borates) published 2012 in Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health concluded: "It clearly appears that human B [boron] exposures, even in the highest exposed cohorts, are too low to reach the blood (and target tissue) concentrations that would be required to exert adverse effects on reproductive functions."
A draft risk assessment released by Health Canada in July 2016 has found that overexposure to boric acid has the potential to cause developmental and reproductive health effects. Since people are already exposed to boric acid naturally through their diets and water, Health Canada advised that exposure from other sources should be reduced as much as possible, especially for children and pregnant women. The concern is not with any one product, but rather multiple exposures from a variety of sources. With this in mind, the department also announced that registrations for certain pesticides that contain boric acid, which are commonly used in homes, will have their registrations cancelled and be phased out of the marketplace. As well, new, more protective label directions are being introduced for other boric acid pesticides that continue to be registered in Canada (for example, enclosed bait stations and spot treatments using gel formulations).
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