(NEW YORK) — Borax, a white, powdery substance, has long been a staple in many households as a cleaning agent and laundry detergent booster.
Now, the substance is making the rounds on social media with some people promoting it as a health booster — a trend that doctors say is dangerous.
“As a doctor, I am telling you, very explicitly, do not ever drink [borax] in any amount,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OB-GYN. “It is a toxin. It is a poison.”
People sharing the trend on social media have suggested drinking or eating borax as a nutritional supplement that can help reduce inflammation and cleanse the body.
According to Ashton, borax is not only unsafe to consume, it is not needed, as the body has its own methods of cleansing itself naturally.
“Our skin, our lungs, our kidneys, our GI tract, our liver are constantly cleansing the body,” Ashton said. “That’s how brilliant the body is in terms of a physical machine, so you don’t really need any other ingredients to do that.”
Ashton added that lifestyle behaviors like exercise, diet, water consumption and smoking can increase or decrease inflammation in the body.
She said healthy behaviors are what people should focus on if they want to reduce inflammation and improve their health.
“The natural things that we can do to augment those processes, like trying to be in an area where there’s clean air, trying to get cardiovascular exercise or being active on a day to day basis, not smoking or inhaling anything into our lungs that is not clean and pure, those things are all smart. They make sense,” Ashton said.
When it comes to a trend like consuming borax to reduce inflammation, Ashton noted, “The risk is significant and there is is zero benefit.”
Exposure to borax — a combination of boron, sodium, and oxygen — may lead to symptoms including eye irritation, trouble breathing, cough and nosebleed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Darien Sutton, an ABC News medical contributor and a board-certified emergency medicine physician, also noted that at high levels, borax can cause renal failure, kidney failure and death.
“[The symptoms] can start very much as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,” Sutton said, adding, “I can see how [borax] can look very unassuming and not harmful, but in reality it truly is, especially if you have a higher risk that you may not be aware of until you land yourself in the emergency room.”
Sutton said that when it comes to health advice on social media, it’s important to check and double check sources.
“I do believe that there is value in social media in providing education, but I’m always the one that cross-checks information, makes sure that my source is valid,” Sutton said. “And if you have any suspicion, just try not to do it before you check.”
Both Sutton and Ashton also stressed that people should always first consult with a health care provider.