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Child Sucking Test

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports an average of 6,463 cases of Boric Acid Poisoning each year

A standard test in toxicological risk assessments is that of a child sucking on the item. The test assumes a child will suck a 50 sq cm area for one hour each day, suck a different area each day, and ingest a percentage of the chemical contained in that area.

This sucking test was used in a National Academies of Sciences study called Toxicological Risks of Selected Flame-Retardant Chemicals, this study examined numerous flame retardants as possible uses on upholstered furniture, and was commissioned by the CPSC. This 'sucking testí was applied to every chemical it studied. The assumption being if a chemical failed this test scenario, it should be rejected from consideration as a flame retardant.

We have no exposure data for boric acid mattresses. But we know boric acid is easily water soluble, that it exists as loose dust simply mixed with the cotton fibers, and is at the surface of the mattresses. We could assume the child might be able to suck 100% of the chemical out in one hour. But we will use more conservative assumptions below.

Twin Mattress      
Boric Acid in Mattress flame barrier    
10% 14%    
grams 386 540.4    
mg       386,000       540,400    
width in length in sq in two sided sq in
37 74          2,738 2        5,476
width cm length cm  sq cm    sq cm
94 188        17,664 2       35,329
mg Boric Acid per sq cm at 10% treatment   10.93
Discount by 50% for Boric Acid at surface 5.46
mg contained in 50 sq cm sucking area 273.15
Salvia Extraction and absorption percent 25%
mg absorbed     68.29
Child weight, pounds   30  
Child weight, Kg   13.64  
mg/Kg absorbed     5.01
Toxic level mg/Kg by EPA   0.20
Exceeds Toxic level by times   25.04

As you can see above we have discounted the boric acid content by 50% for what is available at the surface, and we assume the child can only suck out 25% of this chemical. For a 30 pound child this exposure exceeds toxic levels by 25 times.

If the salvia extraction and absorption was only 1%, the exposure would equal the toxic level. Thus every 1% gain in absorption is the number of times the toxic level is exceeded. 10% extraction would be 10 times toxic levels, and 50% extraction would be 50 times toxic levels for the 30 pound child.

Toxic levels depend on the weight of the child or person. For an 11 pound child it would exceed toxic levels by 68 times. For a 180 pound person it would exceed toxic levels by 4 times.

We know Boric Acid is water soluble and washes out if laundered. A great risk for sucking, and if a child has a urinary accident will he lay in a pool of boric acid concentrate?

There are also concerns that even low level exposures to poisons can harm children.

We know boric acid may not mix evenly in the cotton batting, and there may be hot spots that contain a lot of poison.

If we had exposure data it seems boric acid mattresses would easily be proven toxic.

If your child got sick from one of these mattresses, it would be unlikely a doctor could diagnose the real problem. There is no single biological marker for Boric Acid poisoning. Your child might suffer permanent damage, or even death.

Inhalation, skin, and damaged skin absorption may also reach toxic levels. But the risk to a child from sucking should be enough alone, to tell us not to put poison in our mattresses.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports an average of 6,463 cases of Boric Acid Poisoning each year.

Some result in permanent injury/disability and death. Boric Acid mattresses may cause child poisonings, see:  

2003, Chemicals, Borate/Boric Acid, 2,620 cases, 1,068 adults over 19, p44

Insecticides, Borate/Boric Acid, 3,578 cases, 485 adults, p50

Topical preparations, Boric Acid/Borate, 116 cases, 52 adults, p57

Total 2003 Boric Acid Poisoning Cases: 6,314

2002, Chemicals, Borate/boric acid, 2,724 cases, 1,071 adults, p44.

Insecticides, Borate/Boric Acid, 3,818 cases, 446 adults, p49

Topical preparations, Boric Acid/Borate, 196 cases, 81 adults, p58

Total 2002 Boric Acid Poisoning Cases: 6,738

2001, Chemicals, Borate/boric acid, 2,853 cases, 1,107 adults, p39

Insecticides, Borate/Boric Acid, 3,340 cases, 392 adults, p49

Topical preparations, Boric Acid/Borate, 145 cases, 53 adults, p58

Total 2001 Boric Acid Poisoning Cases: 6,338

Three year average: 6,463 Boric Acid Poisoning Cases, 1,576 Adults, 4,887 Children.