Most people have no idea what bromine is or where it is found. However, what most people will be surprised to know is that bromine is very common in the environment. You may be consuming it from your cola beverages or absorbing it from the upholstery on your sofa. To make matters worse, more evidence seems to indicate that bromine is not a safe substance and can be harmful to health.
Bromine is part of the halide family of elements that includes chlorine, fluorine and iodine. What makes bromine so dangerous is that once inside the body it also competes for the same iodine receptors. Since the thyroid gland needs iodine to make thyroid hormone, bromine can compete with the iodine and the body is no longer able to make thyroid hormone. And what is more serious is that iodine is required in trace amounts by most organs of the body. And in each case, bromine acts as a substitute for iodine. So essentially the individual will suffer from marked underactivity of the thyroid gland.
Today humans are exposed to an excess amount of bromine. Bromine is ubiquitous can be found in the following items:
Many pesticides used in agriculture are known to contain methyl bromide.
Bromine is extensively used in the manufacture of plastic, computer boards and upholstery.
Trace amounts of bromine are often present in some flour and baked foods.
Many soft drinks like gatorade, mountain dew, fresca and other citrus flavored colas are known to contain bromide
Bromine is often found in certain medications like inhalers, nasal sprays and certain gaseous anesthetics.
Bromine in the form of polybromo diphenyl ethers is used as a fire retardant in carpets fabrics, mattresses and upholstery.
Bromine is often used for treatment of swimming pools and hot tubs.
Humans are mainly exposed to bromine by ingestion of foods that contain bromine reside. The majority of population never washes the fruits and vegetables thoroughly and consequently pesticide containing bromine are often left over as residue. In some cases, many people never bother to peel off the skin from fruits, which is often where the highest concentration of toxic material accumulates.
In the 50s, bromide containing antacids were available but withdrawn from the market in 1975. Outside of North America, some of these bromine compounds are still available.
One food that is frequently known to contain bromine is flour. Flour is made from wheat, corn, millet and other grains. These food products are often contaminated with bromine containing pesticide and enter the human food chain.
Another reason why bromine is present in baked good is because potassium bromate is often used as an additive to certain foods. The bromate makes the dough more firm and expansile.
Other products that contain potassium bromate include certain mouthwashes and toothpastes. Potassium bromate is frequently used as an antiseptic for treatment of inflamed or bleeding gums.
In the last decade, bromine has also been found in drinking water. When bromine is exposed to ozone it results in bromate ions which are very potent oxidizing agents.
Sodium bromate is also found in a large number of personal care products like hair dyes, permanent waves, fabric dyes and some cosmetics and fragrances.
Finally bromine and chlorine have both been found in high levels in motor vehicles. New cars almost always test positive for bromine on the armrest, seats, door trim, knobs and the upholstery.
Once bromine enters the body it does two things: 1) it replace iodine which can lead to an underactive thyroid gland and 2) bromine has its own direct toxic effects on the tissues.
There is now preliminary evidence that bromine may also have cancer inducing properties. Scientists believe that high levels of bromine in the body may be responsible for cancers of the thyroid, prostate and ovary.
Bromine also enters the nerves in the brain and causes several problems; it affects the modulation of neurotransmitters which can result in emotional problems like depression psychosis, anxiety and mood instability. There are also case reports that some cases of schizophrenia may be related to bromine toxicity.
Other toxicity of bromine include:
Severe skin problems like nodular acne rash, dryness and itching
Anorexia, vague abdominal cramps and bloating
Excessive fatigue and general malaise
Abnormal or metallic taste
Unstable cardiac rhythms
So why is the government not doing anything about it
The simple reason the government has not done much about the high levels of bromine in the environment and common household products because there is a lot at stake. Many of these industries employ thousand of americans and pay taxes; the government simply turns a blind eye. Government scientists usually counter by stating that low levels of bromine are safe.
Scientists believe that there is a reciprocal relationship between bromine and iodine in the body. When the bromine levels go up, the iodine levels drop. And when the iodine levels drop, there is harm caused to the body. On the other hand when iodine levels are high, this is of significant health benefit. For example, the Japanese have the highest consumption of iodine on earth chiefly because of their seafood diet. They not only have the highest longevity but the Japanese tend to have fewer chronic health problems. Further, the Japanese also have much decreased rates of cancers. Americans typically consume about 150 micrograms of iodine daily whereas the Japanese consume at least 90 times more.
It has been established that iodine is a strong antioxidant and can prevent proliferation of cells. Laboratory studies show that high levels of iodine can inhibit the proliferation of many types of cancer cells.
Today, one can determine the levels of iodine by a simple urine test. The Test will reveal the levels of iodine in your body. Once you know the levels of iodine in your body, you can take iodine supplements if the levels are low. Recommended dose of iodine vary from 70-200 micrograms per day. It is important not to take excessive levels of iodine because this can result in the shutdown of the thyroid gland. Thus, it is also important to get your thyroid function monitored on a regular basis.
There is no foolproof method of avoiding bromine but one can take the following measures to limit the exposure:
1. Learn to read labels and avoid products that contain bromine. This may not alway work because many home items like sofas and leather goods may have bromine but the label may not indicate that.
2. Buy your food from reputable stores. Always thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruits. If possible remove the skin of the fruit before consumption. This will help minimize consumption of bromine containing pesticides.
3. Do not eat foods or drink from plastic containers. The longer the beverages and foods are left in plastic containers, the more likely it is that bromine will have leached. Instead store your water in glass or tin vessels.
4. When you buy flour or wheat, read the label to make sure it is bromine free. The same applies to all baked goods.
5. Avoid cola beverages, Instead drink water.
6. If you have a hot tub or sauna, install an ozone purification system. These devices can keep the water clean and minimize contamination from bromine.
7. When you buy personal care products, read labels and go chemical free.
8, When inside a building, open the windows to ventilate the place; Bromine tends to collect in buildings which are not ventilated.
Finally, be vigilant and aware that bromine is everywhere. By limiting exposure you can avoid the toxicity of bromine.
1. Mercola, J. Bromines: Avoid This if You Want to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/thyroid-health_b_472953.html
2. Bromine/Bromide. http://www.acu-cell.com/br.html
3. CDC Facts about Bromine. https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/bromine/basics/facts.asp
4. The toxic chemistry of methyl bromide. Bulathsinghala AT, Shaw IC.
Hum Exp Toxicol. 2014 Jan;33(1):81-91.