You’ve probably heard of the environmental toxin fluoride, which has been systematically put into the water supply of many U.S. municipalities since the 1960’s and has led to all sorts of health complications for thousands of Americans. You probably haven’t heard too much about fluoride’s sister toxin, bromide, however. The fact that so little is known about this volatile chemical compound within the general public makes its side effects all the more mysterious ─ and insidious.
What is Bromide and Where Can It Be Found?
Bromide is an environmental toxin and an endocrine disruptor. There are actually several forms of bromide that are used for different things in manufacturing. Here is a run-down of the most common sources and forms:
- Methyl Bromide is an agricultural pesticide used on fruit, especially on California-grown strawberries
- Potassium Bromate is an additive in commercial baked goods and flours in the United States. Some countries, including the U.K. and Brazil, have banned its use in wheat flour and bread products
- Sodium bromate is also added to commercial sundry products such as hair dyes, and dyes found in textiles. Other forms of bromide can be found in commercial cosmetics
- Bromidated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is added to many foods and beverages, especially to citrus-flavored soft drinks to help enhance the flavor. Other forms of bromide can be found in colas
- Bromide ions have been detected in some bottled drinking water and water filtration systems
- Bromide is becoming an increasingly popular choice for pool and spa maintenance in lieu of chlorine over the last years
- Both bromide and chlorine can be found in large amounts, oddly enough, in car parts. In fact, they are often the toxin most prevalent in devices such as seats, armrests and door trims. PBDEs (bromide compounds) are used heavily as flame retardants, which would explain its use in automobile parts as well as in paints and household furniture.
What Are the Side Effects of Too Much Bromide in the System?
Like fluoride, the most serious side effect is what it can do to your thyroid function. As a halide, it will compete with the same cellular receptor sites in your body that iodine will. This includes the thyroid and also the mammary glands and other places along the endocrine trail, making it a risk factor for breast cancer and other cancers of the reproductive and endocrine system. Because of its ability to deplete the body of iodine, it can also lead to hypothyroidism. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the world’s population is iodine deficient (U.S numbers are thought to be higher than this). Bromide exposure could be one of the culprits.
Besides being an iodine blocker, other side effects of too much bromide include:
- Premature births and birth defects, because of its effect on iodine absorption
- Cognitive issues, such as memory loss, “brain fog,” schizophrenia and learning disabilities in children
- Kidney damage according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other sources
- Loss of hearing Healthy ear function requires healthy amounts of both potassium and sodium. Animal studies have indicated that bromide can lead to an imbalance of these two nutrients within the ear, which can lead to hearing loss
- Cancer is connected specifically with potassium bromate, which sadly is still added to bread products that thousands of Americans eat every day. While the U.S. is clearly behind the times in banning potassium bromate in bread products, the International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) has labeled it as a known carcinogen, based on animal tests which linked it to kidney and thyroid cancers in particular.
What You Can Do
A simple urine test can help you determine if your bromide levels exceed what is considered safe amounts. Ask your doctor or naturopath about options to get this done. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is to avoid exposure to bromides. Eat organic, especially those foods that may contain heavy pesticides, like the “Dirty Dozen” as outlined by the Environmental Working Group and avoid bottled water and sodas. Also, practice cross ventilation if you are in your car for long hours and avoid swimming pools and spas that may contain added bromide. Finally, if you think that you have bromide toxicity, many experts recommend doing a “salt loading bromide flush;” ample information about this can be found online. The good news about this procedure is that it will also flush out some amount of fluoride as well. The best tool against over-exposure to any toxins is education. Knowledge is power; it can lead you down the path towards a vibrant and cancer-free life.