Technical & Safety Information

Woodworm Treatment with Borons

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Technical information - woodworm treatment products

Borax Boron Powder in water Woodworm Treatment - technical and safety information


What are Borates?

Borates have been used as Wood Preservatives for over 50 years. Boron-containing wood preservatives are all derived from naturally occurring borate minerals. Boron does not occur in nature in its elemental form, but as oxygen-containing compounds such as boric acid, or borates such as Borax. The mineral tincal (Borax) is the most significant source of commercially used borate. There are major deposits in both the USA and Turkey and other forms of borate are found in South America, China and Russia.

Boron is widely distributed in plant and animal tissues and is known to be essential for plant growth. The daily intake for humans varies from 0.5 to 3.1 mg from all natural food and water sources.


Environmental levels of boron (boron in mg/kg)

Soil - 10 to 20 mg

Plants - 5 to 100 mg

Fresh Water - 0.03 to 3 mg

Sea Water - 5 mg


Borates in Woodworm Treatment

Borates are a paradox in character as they are both essential micronutrients for plants, and probably animals, but at the same time possess 'biostatic' activity which has allowed their continued use and development in wood preservation over the last 50 years. Approximately 5,000 tonnes of borate products are used in wood preservatives split roughly into three categories:-

i) decorative timber treatments and construction in the Asia Pacific area

ii) formulation of exterior and remedial wood preservatives in Europe

iii) in construction, wood composites and pest control in North America


Borates in other Industries

It should be remembered that borates are used in hundreds of products and processes throughout the world. The principle industries that utilise borate products are glass, detergents, agriculture, vitreous enamels and ceramic glazes and there is even a borate which helped you get here today - there is borate in your antifreeze and elsewhere in a motor vehicle!


Borate Chemistry

The inorganic borates ores are mined and refined into a wide variety of usable compounds. In the wood preservation industry the principle compounds are Polybor or Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate (Na2B8013.4H20) and some use of Boric acid (H3B03) and Boric oxide (B203).


Borates in the Atmosphere:

Borates are non-volatile. As a dust borates rapidly settle from the atmosphere.


Borates in Water:

Borates are naturally occurring minerals and are present in surface and underground waters. Borates are rapidly dissolved in water and will disperse with dilution. Removal at low concentrations is unnecessary and not considered hazardous to health.


Eating Borates:

Ingestion: Swallowing small quantities (one teaspoon) will cause no harm to healthy adults. If larger amounts are swallowed, give two glasses of water to drink and seek medical attention.


Breathing Borates:

Avoid creation of dust. Use vacuum cleaners wherever possible. If symptoms such as nose or throat irritation are observed, remove to fresh air.


Skin Contact with Borates:

No treatment necessary because it is non-irritating.


Storage of Borates:

No special handling precautions are required, but dry indoor storage is recommended. Good housekeeping procedures should be followed to minimise dust generation and accumulation. No specific fire fighting measures are required since Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate is not flammable, combustible or explosive. The product is itself a flame retardant.


Source of Data in this section:

European Directive 98/8/EC concerning the placing biocidal products on the market, produced by the Technical Committee of the Netherlands.


WOOD PRESERVATIVE AND BIOCIDE SAFETY

Use wood preservatives and biocides safely. Always read the label and product information Data Sheet before use.

Wear the correct safety equipment and keep unprotected people and animals out of the treated area for the statutory period given on the label.

All products have some hazards and the COSHH Regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) apply to ALL building repair and construction products that we sell, even Cement.

If in doubt consult us for free technical help. Take care not to contaminate soil, waterways or the environment with the product or the waste and packaging. These can be returned to us for disposal.

Avoid using any type of chemical in your home if any of the following are likely to come into contact with treated surfaces: babies, young children, asthmatics, pregnant women or those vulnerable due to ill health.


EUROPEAN BORON RECLASSIFICATION - ongoing action by Rio Tinto Borax

Rio Tinto, manufacturers of Borax Products, is currently appealing against the European reclassification of some Borates. We will advise you when we have a definitive ruling for the UK from the UK Authority, the HSE. Most of our Products will be unaffected.

In the meantime a warning label will indicate a hazard to your reproductive capabilities if you should eat a significant quantity of high concentration Borate powder for a long period, an unlikely risk in our Industry. To be at risk you might need to eat 18 teaspoonfuls (about 23 grams) every day for two years, if the Rat Study results are used as a basis for comparison with Humans.

Long term testing of Borate Miners' health shows no related health hazards, despite several extensive Studies.


Effect of the Reclassification on our Products

Most of our products are used at concentrations below the 5.5% (BAE) level, so will not require any action and are not classified as hazardous.

The products that are used at over 5.5% (BAE) will carry a warning label that indicates that if you eat enough Borate powder (100% concentration), for long enough, your reproductive abilities might be affected - although there is no evidence of this in the official long term studies of Miners who handle Borates daily.


Woodworm Control - why we use wood preservatives

In the UK we are mainly concerned with woodworm treatment for Common Furniture Beetle, (Anobium punctatum, in Latin). We need to practice safe woodworm beetle treatment because of the long term damage that the woodworm larvae (grubs) cause in structural and decorative woodwork in domestic houses and commercial buildings.

Knowledge of the life cycle of the common furniture beetle (usually just called 'Woodworm' for short) is important when carrying out woodworm treatment because we cannot stop adult Woodworm beetles emerging using normal timber treatments, no matter which surface applied woodworm treatment product we use. To eventually cure woodworm we first need to break the 'egg laying cycle'.

Common furniture beetle starts life as an egg. These are laid on a bare, unpainted timber surface, or in cracks and crevices, end grain and down old emergence holes.

These larvae hatch, bore into the sap wood, where they cause most of the damage. The larvae feed on the wood and this 'worm' becomes larger for up to 5 years. At some stage the wood worm moves close to the surface and constructs a pupal chamber.

Between May and August the adult emerges from its pupal skin and chews its way out leaving the familiar 'woodworm holes'. When they cut their way out they are not actually feeding - the adult does not eat! When the adult beetles have emerged they mate and lay eggs, frequently down the old emergence holes and into the pupal chambers and tunnels. Sometimes both mating and egg laying can take place within the emergence hole itself.


How to stop Woodworm

Woodworm treatment is essential, if active woodworm is present, in order to prevent woodworm eggs from successfully boring into the timber and continuing the woodworm life cycle. If woodworm, or worse still Death Watch Beetle, (or even worse still House Longhorn Beetle) is allowed to continue to eat your wood, it will be structurally weakened by the multitude of internal tunnels and beetle flight escape holes. These exit holes are evidence of an attack of some type of woodworm, but the size of the exit hole is important in determining the beetle species and hence its life expectancy. Death watch Beetle has a much longer cycle (8 to 10 years) than Common Furniture Beetle (3 to 5 years), so woodworm treatment, as a woodworm killer, has to be adapted to suit the insect involved. Timber treatment is only part of the woodworm story. Dampness also plays an important part in woodworm attack, (woodworm prefer damp or wet timber) so timber treatment must take account of damp, its source and its control or elimination. Fortunately, Boron based products love moisture - they 'seek' the dampest parts of the wood, thus protecting the most vulnerable areas.

Consult our Qualified Woodworm Experts for safe, odour free Woodworm Treatment. We supply a Licensed Borax product as an Insecticide - very safe, no smell and permanent.


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Site written by: David Moore

David Moore, B.A. (Hons.), C.T.I.S., C.R.D.S. Technical Author

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