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Teens Are Hoarding Borax & Glue to Make Slime—But Is It Safe?

Kids are obsessed with making slime out of Elmer's glue and Borax, but some are saying it's unsafe. We asked a pediatrician to weigh in. 

girls making slime Courtesy Dr. Vanessa Stoloff
The DIY slime-making craze has gotten so out of hand that stores are now running out of Elmer's. As in glue. Which is one of the ingredients—along with Borax and food coloring—in the many home recipes for the weirdly popular gooey stuff currently circulating online.

You knew this was a thing, right? I mean, just do a quick search for slime over on Instagram and YouTube and you'll find hundreds of thousands of tweens and teens making their own variations of this stuff, much of which has been pimped out with beads and glitter. The Slimers—oh yes, they have a name—then video themselves poking, pulling, and popping their colorful concoctions before selling them FOR CASH at school. As a parent, it's hard to imagine anyone willing to fork over good money for a gob of homemade slime. But people definitely are. So mad props for the entrepreneurial spirit, guys! And no judgment here—I'm a girl who once bought and collected pet rocks.

Anyway, supplies are now apparently running low. Which means it's currently harder to procure a container of white Elmer's glue then it was to score one of those elusive Hatchimals over the holidays. (Ok, so I may be exaggerating a little.) But still, Elmer's spokesperson Caitlin Watkins did recently tell NBC News that the company saw an increase in liquid glue sales in the second half of 2016 "due in large part to slime mania," and then added that they now plan to increase production. Pretty crazy! Especially considering all the controversy surrounding reports that the Borax used to make the slime may cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, and may even damage fertility.

Say what?

slime making supplies Slime-making supplies, courtesy Dr. Vanessa Stoloff
Last month, Connecticut pediatrician Richard Uluski, M.D., told NBC4 that slime making simply isn't safe for kids. "Something that's a chemical should not be used as a toy," he said. "From a medical standpoint, too much of Borax can lead to medical problems including things like seizures."

Kinda scary. But experts like Vanessa Stoloff, M.D., a family practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania, say the whole Borax business is actually pretty benign. In fact, the DIY thing is currently going down in her own home courtesy of her 11-year-old twin daughters, who recently made a batch of cookie dough slime that smelled like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. "As long as your kids' slime recipes don't include tasting it," she told Parents.com, "topical Borax shouldn't affect skin—especially at the amount being used."

Dr. Jason Hack, a toxicologist from Rhode Island Hospital, also has a daughter who's into making slime. "It's a great activity," he told WPRI 12 Eyewitness News. And he echoed Dr. Stoloff's arguement that the small amount of Borax the kids are using is not absorbed through the skin. "It would take eating a lot of it to actually become toxic," he explained.

Which brings up a pretty good point: If your child does accidentally ingest any slime that contains Borax, you should contact the American Association of Poison Control at 800-222-1222 immediately.

Of course, the decision whether or not to let your kids use Borax for slime-making purposes in the first place is a judgment call every parent must make for themselves (here's a great blog post that breaks down the pros and cons). But if you do decide to go ahead and allow it, it's probably a good idea to stick around and supervise—especially if your kids are in the lets-put-this-in-our-mouth-and-see-what-happens stage.

If you're more in the market for something to keep your kids busy long enough for you to, say, catch up on the first two episodes of Big Little Lies—the mom drama is just so good, you guys!—there are plenty of Borax-free DIY slime recipes floating around the internet that will allow you to kick back and watch in peace. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Elmer's glue, that is.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more.