Eleven-year-old Kathleen Quinn had just finished making another batch of the homemade slime she'd been whipping up every day over the last few months using water, Elmer's Glue, and Borax when she noticed that her hands felt hot and tingly. They were also covered in blisters and hurt enough to make her cry out in pain, so her parents took her to a local hospital where doctors said the second- and third-degree burns were most likely due to an extreme reaction to prolonged use of Borax.
"I just feel like a terrible mother for letting her have access to this,'' Kathleen's mom, Siobhan Quinn, told Today. "I thought it was laundry detergent. I didn't think it was that bad."
And therein lies the rub. While the controversy over whether or not DIY slime-making is safe has been bubbling up for a while now following reports that Borax may cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, it's also a natural mineral that has been used for laundry and house cleaning for more than a century. So why did Kathleen have such a terrible reaction to it—and is Borax actually safe or not?
NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres said on Today that for most cases, children using Borax under supervision in very small doses shouldn't really be a big concern. He did add, however, that when there is a lot of exposure to a lot of Borax—like in Kathleen's case—it might cause an issue, particularly if the slime-maker has sensitive skin.
But Consumer Reports Chief Scientific Officer James Dickerson cautions that just because you have Borax around your house, and just because it seems to be perfectly safe as a household cleaner or an additive for your laundry, it doesn't mean it should be used in anything else, particularly homemade slime. There's even a label on the box that clearly warns to keep it out of the reach of children.
"Borax is a known eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritant," Dickerson told NBC. "So we really don't want young kids to be exposed to this because it's a potential hazard."
Makes sense. And while Kathleen's story is a pretty scary one, at the end of the day, the decision of whether or not to let your kids keep using Borax to make slime is a judgment call every parent must make for themselves. My son happens to have super-sensitive skin so I, for one, will be erring on the side of caution. Luckily, there are plenty of Borax-free DIY slime recipes floating around the internet to keep him busy.