Borates are naturally occurring minerals that contain boron, the fifth element in the Periodic Table. Plants and animals need borates to grow. These remarkable minerals are also essential in many industrial processes and are both safe and incredibly versatile. A unique combination of properties makes borates indispensable in many industries. They are used in the insulation of homes, as flame retardants, in safety components of automobiles like airbags and brake fluids, and are essential for the growth of healthy crops. They increase the strength of glass and are used as preservatives in timber, paints and healthcare.
The element boron does not exist by itself in nature. Rather, boron combines with oxygen and other elements to form boric acid, or inorganic salts called borates. Despite the millions of tons of industrial borates mined, processed and distributed around the world every year, far larger quantities of boron are transferred around the planet by way of natural forces. Rain, volcanic activity, condensation and other atmospheric activities redistribute at least twice as much boron as all commercial practices combined. The key to the borate industry’s strength also lies in nature: specifically, the nature of borates’ structural and bonding characteristics. In living systems, these characteristics make borates vital to metabolism – the fundamental way in which organisms translate food into energy. Borates abound in industrial systems as well, for two reasons. First, they’re safe. Used for centuries, borates pose no risk to people, animals or the environment under normal handling and use. Even those who handle borates every day have experienced no adverse health effects. Second, they’re versatile. In some applications, there is simply no substitute for borates. In other products and processes, their natural functions impart a wide range of performance, cost, environmental health and safety advantages.