Boron is an element that exists in nature, often in combination with other substances that form compounds called borates. The most common Boron compounds include boric acid, borates, and boron oxide. Borates are mainly used for glass production and also in fire retardants, in the tanning industry, in cosmetics, in photographic materials, in soaps and cleaners, and in high-efficiency fuels. Some chemicals used in the control of cockroaches and some wood preservatives also contain borates.
Exposure to Boron occurs at the workplace or through the use of certain consumer products. Inhalation of moderate levels of Boron irritates the nose, throat, and eyes. Ingestion of large amounts of Boron can lead to problems in the stomach, intestine, liver, kidneys, and brain.
Boron traces are essential for the growth of many plants and although not yet recognized as a necessary nutrient for humans, data from both animal and human studies indicate that boron is important for many biological processes, such as embryogenesis, bone growth and maintenance, immune function, regulation of inflammatory reactions, psychomotor abilities, metabolism of other metals, brain functions, prevention of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis and the prevention of prostate, lung and cervical cancers. It has also been shown to affect the metabolism or activity of many biological compounds, including glucose, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), amino acids, triglycerides, other macronutrients, and a range of hormones, including vitamin D, testosterone, and estrogens.
How does Boron enter the environment?
Boron is released into the environment from natural sources such as oceans, volcanoes, and geothermal steam. Boron is also released by the industries that use it. Boron cannot be destroyed in the environment. It can only change its shape or settle or separate from particles in soil, sediments, and water.
How is one exposed to Boron?
- By eating foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
- Boron is widely distributed in surface and groundwater.
- The general population is not likely to be exposed to Boron-contaminated air.
- Exposure to Boron can occur in mining and processing plants and in areas where boric acid is manufactured.
- Exposure to Boron compounds may occur due to the use of consumer products containing them, such as cosmetics and cleaning products.
How can Boron affect health?
People who work in borate dust areas report nose, throat, and eye irritation. Irritation does not persist for long after leaving the dusty area. Exposure to large quantities of Boron (about 30 g of boric acid) for a short period of time can affect the stomach, intestine, liver, kidneys, and brain and may eventually lead to death.
Studies in animals have shown that reproductive organs, especially testes, are affected if large amounts of Boron are taken for a short or longer period. The doses that produced these effects in animals were, of course, more than 1.800 times higher than the average daily intake of Boron through food.
Boric acid has antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties and is therefore used as an antiseptic in swimming pools. Mild boric acid solutions have been used as ocular antiseptics. Some new drugs, such as Bortezomib, which belongs to a new class of drugs called proteasome inhibitors, which are active against certain cancers, contain Boron. The boron atom of the drug binds the catalytic site of the 26S proteasome with high affinity and specificity. Also, some other medicines contain Boron.
Boron is also a key element in plant growth, but high concentrations in soil can lead to plant necrosis.
As a super-trace element, Boron is essential for optimal animal health. No deficiency syndrome has been described in humans. Small amounts of Boron occur widely in the diet (it is found in all plant-derived foods) and the amounts required in the diet are minimal. The exact physiological role of Boron in the animal kingdom has not yet been elucidated, but it is believed to play several roles.
The total daily intake of Boron in standard diets ranges from 2.1-4.3 mg daily.
How can the risk of exposure to Boron be reduced?
Pesticides and herbicides containing Boron compounds should be used according to their instructions and should be kept out of the reach of children.
Household chemicals should be stored in their original containers and away from children to prevent accidental poisoning.
Children who live near Boron-containing waste disposal sites and Boron compounds are likely to be exposed to higher than normal levels by breathing in Boron-containing dust, touching the ground, and then putting their hands in their mouths. Children should wash their hands frequently, especially before eating.
How can one determine if one has been exposed to Boron?
We can measure Boron levels in the blood and most biological materials.
Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.