Dangers of Bromine Exposure in Food and our Environment

Bromine is a chemical element with the symbol Br and atomic number 35. Bromine is an essential element for some biological processes and has various industrial applications, it can also pose dangers to human health and the environment in certain situations.

  1. Toxicity: Bromine is toxic and can cause health issues if exposure occurs in excessive amounts. Inhalation or ingestion of bromine vapors or compounds can lead to symptoms such as respiratory distress[i], headaches, nausea, and irritation of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes[ii][iii]. Prolonged exposure to of bromine may result in more severe health effects, including damage to the central nervous system[iv].
  2. Skin and Eye Irritation: Bromine is corrosive and can cause irritation to the skin and eyes upon contact. Direct exposure to bromine or its compounds can lead to burns, redness, and discomfort[v]. Proper safety precautions, such as the use of protective equipment like gloves and goggles, are essential when handling bromine to prevent skin and eye injuries.
  3. Environmental Impact: Bromine, when released into the environment, can have negative consequences. It can contaminate water sources, affecting aquatic ecosystems. Bromine compounds can also contribute to air pollution, especially in industrial processes where bromine-containing substances are used. The environmental impact of bromine highlights the importance of responsible handling, disposal, and regulation of its use in various industries[vi].
  4. : The use of bromine in baking goods is generally associated with the additive potassium bromate, which has been used to improve dough strength and promote a better rise in baked products[vii]. However, the use of potassium bromate in baking has raised concerns due to potential health risks associated with its consumption. Here are some dangers associated with bromine, specifically potassium bromate, in baking goods[viii]:
  5. Thyroid Health Concerns: Bromine is chemically similar to iodine and can compete with iodine for absorption by the thyroid gland. Excessive bromine intake, especially in the form of potassium bromate, may interfere with thyroid function and contribute to thyroid-related issues. Iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones, and disruptions in this process can affect metabolism and overall health[ix].

In conclusion, while bromine has various industrial applications and plays a role in certain biological processes, it is essential to be aware of its potential dangers. Proper handling, storage, and disposal practices, along with adherence to regulatory guidelines, are crucial to minimize the risks associated with bromine and ensure the safety of both human health and the environment.


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[ii] Suwanlaong K, Phanthumchinda K. Neurological manifestation of methyl bromide intoxication. J Med Assoc Thai. 2008 Mar;91(3):421-6. PMID: 18575299.
[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208163/
[iv] Chegondi M, Totapally BR. Spurious Hyperchloremia and Negative Anion Gap in a Child with Refractory Epilepsy. Case Rep Crit Care. 2016;2016:7015463. doi: 10.1155/2016/7015463. Epub 2016 Feb 11. PMID: 26981292; PMCID: PMC4766335.
[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208163/
[vi] Woolf A, Shannon M. Reactive airways dysfunction and systemic complaints after mass exposure to bromine. Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Jun;107(6):507-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.99107507. PMID: 10339453; PMCID: PMC1566575.
[vii] https://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1559.pdf
[viii] Ncheuveu Nkwatoh T, Fon TP, Navti LK. Potassium bromate in bread, health risks to bread consumers and toxicity symptoms amongst bakers in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon. Heliyon. 2023 Jan 21;9(2):e13146. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e13146. PMID: 36747561; PMCID: PMC9898660.
[ix] Lisco G, De Tullio A, Giagulli VA, De Pergola G, Triggiani V. Interference on Iodine Uptake and Human Thyroid Function by Perchlorate-Contaminated Water and Food. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 4;12(6):1669. doi: 10.3390/nu12061669. PMID: 32512711; PMCID: PMC7352877.