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Drinking Water Safety

Is there boron in my drinking water?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What is boron?

Boron is an element found in nature. It is most often combined with oxygen in compounds called borates, like boric acid, borax, and boron oxide. Minerals with borate are mined and processed to make:

  • glass
  • ceramics
  • soap
  • bleach
  • detergent
  • fire retardant
  • industrial pesticides

Where is boron found?

Boron is released into the air, water, or soil when soils and rocks naturally weather.

Manufactured sources of boron include:

  • some fertilizers and herbicides
  • copper smelters (smelting is when metal is separated from its natural source using heat)
  • wastewater used for irrigation
  • industrial waste disposal

How does boron get into my drinking water?

Boron gets into water from:

  • industrial wastewater
  • municipal sewage
  • rocks and soil weathering
  • soil run-off

How does boron affect my health?

Most people get about 1.2 mg (milligrams) of boron from what they eat. And most drinking water contains between 0.1 and 0.3 mg/L (milligrams per litre) of boron. According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA, there is a risk to a young boy’s testicles when they are exposed to high levels of boron in drinking water. This exposure does not need to be long-term.

Do not use water with boron over 2 mg/L to prepare food or formula for babies and children.

High boron levels can affect the health of your testicles. There is also a risk to unborn babies.

Boron does not cause cancer.

How do I know if there is boron in my drinking water?

Your water can be tested to see how much boron is in it. Learn more about testing your drinking water in Alberta.

Any public water supply must be checked for boron. You can find out results from your water supplier. If routine testing shows boron levels over the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC), your water supplier has to reduce the amount of boron to a safe level. The MAC is the highest amount of a metal in drinking water that is safe for a person to drink.

If you have a private water source, test your water regularly to make sure it is safe. Make sure to have your water sample tested by an accredited lab.

What is the standard for levels of boron in drinking water?

According to Health Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, the highest acceptable level of boron in drinking water is 5 mg/L. This value is set to protect an average person from getting sick based on the average amount of water we drink.

Do not use water with boron over 2 mg/L to prepare food or formula for babies and children. ​

What should I do if there are high levels of boron in my drinking water?

If you are concerned about boron in your drinking water:

  • Use water from another safe source to drink, cook, and brush your teeth. Safe water sources include municipal (city or town) water systems or bottled water.
  • Talk to a professional water specialist to install a certified water treatment unit to remove boron.
You can remove boron from drinking water with:
  • a boron-specific ion exchange resin (a system that uses the electrical charges of different particles to clean water)
  • a strong-base anion-exchange resin (a system that uses the electrical charges of different particles to clean water)
  • reverse osmosis (forcing water through a membrane that filters out elements like boron). Reverse osmosis is limited in its ability to remove boron.

After you have installed your system, have your treated water tested for boron to make sure your system is working properly. Monitor and maintain your water treatment equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How else might I be exposed to boron?

There can also be boron (usually as borates or boric acid) in:

  • some cosmetics
  • some pesticides
  • certain foods like fruits and vegetables
  • powders or dusts that you breathe in
  • ​some medicines

Where can I learn more?

If you have any questions about boron in drinking water, contact Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health.


Current as of: April 26, 2022

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services