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Toy Slime Health Hazards: What You Need to Know

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If you’ve spent any time shopping for your kids this holiday season or watching videos with them on YouTube, then you know that toy slime is having a moment.

Oozy, gooey, stretchy, and coming in all different colors and textures, toy slimes are fascinating to make and play with.

But do you know what’s actually in them?

New warnings

A consumer advocacy group recently singled out toy slime as being potentially hazardous to children.

In their annual Trouble In Toyland Report, the United States Public Interest Research Group warns that, of forty toys tested, six slime products contained “dangerously high” levels of boron, a mineral often used in in a variety of industrial and consumer products including detergents and fertilizers.

According to USPIRG, some of the toy slimes tested contained up to 4,700 ppm (parts per million) of boron — more than 15 times the allowance in toys of this kind in the European Union.

However, the United States does not have official safety standards for boron content in consumer products.

“To keep kids safe, it may be necessary to limit boron content in children’s toys or, at least, explicitly label toys that are high in boron content,” the authors wrote.

The products named in the report include: Kangaroos Original Super Cool Slime, Kidsco Glow in The Dark Slime, and Toysmith Jupiter Juice Slime. All of the slimes with high boron content are available through major retailers Amazon and Walmart.

How boron can affect health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), boron is a known irritant that can affect the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.

If ingested, it can irritate the gastrointestinal tract leading to stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, or other GI distress.

If ingested in large quantities, boron can be fatal. A lethal dose of boron is estimated to be between 15 to 20 grams for adults and 5 to 6 grams for children, consumed over a short period of time.

Small children will put lots of things in their mouths, but that is a lot of boron to eat. One expert recently told CNN, that to reach a toxic level of boron, a child would have to eat “multiple containers.”

Is toy slime really unsafe?

While it may be concerning to know that there is a potentially harmful mineral used to make toy slime, the truth is that boron is generally recognized as being pretty benign.

It is not a known carcinogen and isn’t going to be absorbed through the skin.

“The amounts that are used in these products tend to be pretty low and below the low levels where you would likely see any serious concerns. So for most users, that means that the likeliest kinds of concerns would be irritations of the skin,” Dr. Ken Spaeth, chief of occupational and environmental medicine for Northwell Health System, told Healthline.

Homemade hazards

Homemade slimes, on the other hand, can be more problematic.

Many recipes call for glue, water, and borax, the colloquial term for sodium tetraborate, a boron-containing chemical compound. Borax, again, is generally considered pretty safe, but like boron, is also a skin and GI irritant.

Your typical Elmer’s wood glue (the white stuff we all used in grade school) is also pretty harmless.

“It ought to be done with some adult supervision so that the borax is not being misused or used carelessly, but if it’s being used responsibly I think it’s not likely to pose any major concerns,” said Spaeth.

However, borax is still a chemical and can cause harm.

In one incident, detailed by parenting blog Romper, an 11-year-old girl received third-degree burns and blistering on her hands after finishing a batch of homemade slime.

Borax is typically diluted with water when used for making slime and doctors believe that she may not have sufficiently diluted the borax before using it. The girl may also have had an allergic reaction.

“A measuring error or spillage might occur where there could be a higher exposure,” said Spaeth.

Other things to keep in mind when making homemade slime is that other constituents — sparkles, pieces of plastic, or foam — used to modify the texture of the slime can contain toxic elements or represent a choking hazard.

However, “it’s hard to make a broad statement about those kinds of items,” said Spaeth.

If you’re in the market for toy slime, like anything, it pays to be a savvy consumer and know about what you’re buying — especially if it’s for kids.

Despite consumer warnings, boron is unlikely to cause any real health problems, unless consumed in large quantities.

If making slime is something you enjoy with your kids, you probably don’t need to worry as long as you’re providing proper supervision. And if you’re really worried, there are plenty of homemade slime recipes that are borax free.

The bottom line

A consumer advocacy group has warned that certain toy slimes contain dangerously high levels of boron, a mineral used in detergents and other consumer products. Boron can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. However, it is not a carcinogen and generally considered safe unless consumed in large amounts.

If making slime at home, make sure to closely supervise the activity and don’t leave kids unattended around borax.

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