Zinc borate is a white powder, insoluble in water and with a melting point of 980­ °C. This compound’s heat resistance and smoke suppression properties mean it is widely used in polymers, polyamides, paint, rubber and cellulose fibres. It can also help prevent crop diseases and boost yield in agriculture. 

Zinc borate is non-toxic to humans; there aren’t any studies showing significant long-term effects from exposure. It’s toxic to aquatic life, so you need to dispose of it according to local regulations.

Hazards

Although zinc borate isn’t considered toxic to humans, you’ll need to inform workers about some hazards and take reasonable precautions to prevent harm. 

Eye and Skin Irritant

The compound is an eye and skin irritant. Rinse your eyes or skin with water in the case of exposure. Seek medical assistance if the irritation continues. 

Breathing

Borate of zinc can irritate the nose and throat, causing coughing, sneezing and wheezing. If you experience these symptoms, remove yourself from the area and inform a responsible person. You may need medical assistance if the symptoms continue to bother you. 

Ingestion

Swallowing zinc borate may lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and chest pains. Don’t induce vomiting, but instead seek immediate medical assistance if symptoms occur. 

Precautions

Whenever workers need to use zinc borate, they should take the following precautions possible. 

  • Inform workers of hazards and the precautions they should take. 
  • Wherever possible, provide exhaust ventilation for enclosed spaces. 
  • Change out of contaminated clothing immediately. Wash the clothing on site and separate it from non-contaminated clothing. 
  • Provide eye-wash stations near the work area. 
  • Provide emergency shower stations where the possibility of skin contamination exists. 
  • Anybody with skin exposure to zinc borate should immediately shower and change clothes. 
  • Inform workers of the importance of washing hands carefully before eating, drinking or smoking. 
  • Ensure the availability of suitable gloves and protective clothing like disposable coveralls.
  • Workers should wear eye protection to prevent eye contamination. 

Spills

In the case of a minor spill, remove anybody from the area without protective clothing. Use dry-cleaning techniques to clean the spill. Place all waste in a labelled container for disposal in line with local regulations. It would be best if you contained the spillage as soon as possible, as large quantities of zinc borate constitute an environmental hazard.

Advise all personnel in the area of significant spillage. Alert emergency services and inform them of the spillage and nature of the hazard. Ensure that any person involved in clean-up activities takes the precautions detailed above, particularly concerning protective clothing. 

Prevent the spillage from entering water sources or rivers if possible and recover as much of the product as you can. Contact the local environmental agencies for advice on spillage clean-up procedures. 

Conclusion

Zinc borate isn’t considered toxic to humans, but large quantities are hazardous to aquatic life. Although there aren’t any known long-term effects of exposure to zinc borate, it’s still an eye and skin irritant. For these reasons, you need to take a few elementary precautions for storage, handling and spill prevention or clean-up.