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Product Warnings: Take With a Grain of Borax

3/7/2011 3:36:06 PM

Tags: borax, LED lights, product warnings, borax hazards, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for products we like. First we learned that Borax could be hazardous, then that LED lights contain lead, arsenic and other dangerous materials. Before I fall into an “is nothing safe?” rant, though, I need a little perspective.

When we posted about the potential hazards of LED lights, one reader noted that he would be sure not to grind up his lights and use them as coffee creamer. His comment made me laugh—and also made me think. In the absence of nontoxic alternatives, we can and should push to make LED lights as safe as possible. Our best bet, however, is being aware of the potential hazards and being responsible with how we use them.

Borax has been one of the heavy hitters in my natural cleaning arsenal for decades. I have two boxes down in my laundry room right now, and I plan to keep using the naturally occurring mineral when my laundry needs a lift. I don’t plan to eat it (although it was used as a food preservative back in the day), and I don’t plan to wash my face and hands in it (despite the directive I found on an antique borax can to add borax “freely” to soften water for bathing). I'll use salt and baking soda as alternatives when I can, but sometimes I need the cleaning and disinfecting power that only borax can bring.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in these scares, which seem to pop up all the time. We live in an imperfect world, and we do the best that we can. LED lights are still preferable to energy-sucking incandescents, and borax is loads better than bleach. Until we have better alternatives, I’ll continue to recommend both products—with caveats. If you're concerned at all, there's a lot to be said for gloves and masks.

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