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Get Informed | Boron

What is Boron?

Boron is a naturally occurring essential non-metallic element that is found in the Earth's crust, soil, our food, and seawater. Boron is also present in man-made materials like fire retardants, ceramics, glass, textiles, fertilizers, cleaning products like "Borax", and activities associated with burning coal. Boron is present in seawater, saline water, connate water (water trapped in the pores of a rock during formation of the rock which means this water is very old and has been marinating the rock for a long time, dissolving many things out of the rock), and brine water associated with oil and gas development. Compounds of boron are used for medical issues, including: menstrual pain, yeast infections, skin astringent, and as a supplement for boron deficiency (Source).

How Does Boron become a problem?

High levels of boron exposure have been associated with skin inflammation and peeling, irritability, tremors, convulsions, weakness, headaches, depression, diarrhea, and vomiting and boron may interfere with the function of the kidneys. An acute overdose in infants has caused diarrhea, vomiting, signs of irritability, erythema (skin inflammation) in the diaper area, a mild red rash on the face and neck, a pus-like discharge or mild congestion of the eye, and possibly convulsive seizures. In adults, an acute overdose causes nausea, vomiting, redness of the skin, difficulty swallowing due to ulcers in the throat, and a non-bloody diarrhea. (Source).

What are the Health Risks for Boron?

As levels of boron in drinking water increase above the One-Day and Ten-Day Health Advisory of (3.0 mg/L) and the Longer-Term Health Advisory (2.0 mg/L) for children, the risk for the potential effect on the testes of young males increases. As the level of boron in drinking water increases above the Longer Term Health Advisory and Lifetime Health Advisory for adults (5 mg/L), the risk for adverse effects on the fetuses of pregnant women and the testes of males increases. (Source)

What are the Standards for Boron?

Boron is currently not regulated by the EPA, but the EPA has established a Health Advisory for drinking water of 2.0 mg/L and a Drinking Water Equivalent Limit (DWEL) of 7 mg/L; some states have established drinking water standards that range from 0.6 to 1.0 mg/L. The state drinking water guidelines are as follows: California, 1000 μg/L (1 mg B/L); Wisconsin, 900 μg/L (0.9 mg B/L); Florida, Maine, and New Hampshire, 630 μg/L (0.63 mg B/L); and Minnesota, 600 μg/L (0.6 mg B/L).  For more information on the health advisories for boron we recommend the EPA Drinking Water Health Advisory For Boron.  The World Health Organization has set a standard of 0.5 mg B/L.

Get Tested | Boron

At this time, we are not aware of specific aesthetic issues with the water that may suggest your water has an elevated level of boron. If you are located in an area where the geology contains bedrock high in boron, your water source is impacted by saline or connate water, it is located near the ocean, you are located in an area that uses compounds containing boron in manufacturing, you are in an area that burns coal/ stores coal ash, in an agricultural area, or an area that produces oil and natural gas and manages brine water, or you have some of the symptom listed above, it would be wise to consider getting your water checked for boron.

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

Notes on Level 1 Testing for Boron

If you are experiencing the symptoms listed above or are in an area that typically has an activity that uses boron compounds, it would be advisable to get your water tested for boron and other compounds.

Observations for Boron

An issue with boron may be associated with water impacted by salt or connate water or desalinated water. Therefore, it is possible that water may have a "salty taste" not because of the boron, but because of the associated water contaminants. The following agricultural crops are sensitive to boron: orange, lemon, and other citrus crops.  When present in water it is commonly present as boric acid H₃BO₃ or sodium borate NaB(OH)₄.

Try Our Level 1 Drinking Water Self-Diagnostic Tool
Have water issues? Answer our self-diagnosis questionnaire from your observations to get an initial diagnosis. Then follow our recommended steps to remediate your issue.
Self-Diagnostic Tool

Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Water Testing

Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Boron

We are not aware of any in-home or low-cost screening tests for boron in drinking water.

Level 3 | Informational Water Testing

Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 3 Testing for Boron

There are a number of informational water testing kits that include boron. We recommend one of these low-cost informational water tests to aid in making an initial determination of the condition of your drinking water. Since the common treatment system to remove boron is Reverse Osmosis, you may want to consider the National Testing Labs Reverse Osmosis Testing Package.

Level 4 | Certified Water Testing

A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for Boron

For certified testing, it would be advisable to have at a minimum an informational water test and an understanding of the source of the boron. Therefore, we strongly recommend an initial screening test and a Neighborhood Environmental Report.

Get Treatment |Boron

For boron, the installation of a Particle Filter, water softener, UV Disinfection system, complex Oxidation filtration system, or even a granular-activated-carbon filtration system will not reduce the level of boron in the water. For boron reduction, it is very likely that the pretreatment system will be one or more of these standard water treatment systems, but there are only three technologies that have shown real promise in reducing boron in water to a level below 0.3 mg/L. These technologies are a boron-specific ion exchange resin, a strong-base anion-exchange resin, and Reverse Osmosis water treatment systems. The design, configuration, and optimization of these systems require an expert. Prior to hiring this expert, you should have a comprehensive water quality assessment of your water source and a complete understanding of the source of the contaminant.

Short-Term Treatment

Since their does not appear to be any aesthetic problems that may suggest a problem with boron in drinking water other than a potential health effect and the standard approaches of boiling the water or using a Carbon Filter really will not address this issue, we suggest using an alternative water source until the level of boron in the water can be documented. Unless there is a known source or contamination event, we suggest a low-cost initial screening test of your drinking water. We like to call this the shotgun approach.  For low levels of boron, a short-term solution may be a point-of-use Reverse Osmosis unit.

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Long-Term Treatment

Three technologies have been shown to reduce boron levels to below 0.3 mg/L.They are a boron-specific ion exchange resin, a strong-base anion-exchange resin, and Reverse Osmosis. Before installing a home treatment unit, the manufacturer should be contacted to determine if it can remove boron from your water supply and in most cases a customized solution is best.

Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

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