Bromine is a chemical that is toxic to humans and has a wide range of side effects from contact or ingestion. The use of bromine in industrial applications and manufacturing has exposed some people to unusually high levels. If bromine touches the skin, it can cause lesions and sores that can be very serious. It also has a negative effect on the thyroid. There are reports that the effects of bromine include health issues ranging from kidney and liver damage to the possibility that it can cause cancer.
Being in the physical presence of bromine presents several hazards. The fumes emitted from the element cause severe irritation to the eyes. Breathing in the same fumes can cause choking or lung irritation and, over time, damage to the central nervous system. Allowing the substance to touch the skin will cause chemical burns. Such effects of bromine exposure are most notable when it is in its natural liquid state and can easily evaporate.
The effects of bromine can be serious if ingested in large amounts, especially over time. The corrosive liquid element can cause severe chemical burns in the mouth and throat. This eventually can lead to spasms or death if enough is ingested. One danger of excessive bromine ingestion is that the element does not readily leave the body but takes a long time to be removed.
Despite the health risks of eating bromine, it is contained in a wide variety of foods. It is used in soft drinks and as an additive in some flours. Although efforts have been made to ban or reduce the amount of bromine used in the production of food, it is still present. Bromine also can occur in drinking water, because it is sometimes used for water purification.
The harmful effects of bromine on the body come from its interaction with iodine. Iodine is an important element that helps the functioning of nearly every tissue in the body. Both iodine and bromine are halides. If the body contains a large amount of bromine, it will begin to shed the iodine in an attempt to remove the bromine. This can lead to a number of problems, including iodine deficiency that can lead to thyroid disease.
Humans are not the only ones to suffer the side effects of bromine. It also can have a detrimental effect on the environment. Bromine in the atmosphere can reduce the amount of ozone that is present. The element does not naturally decompose, so bromine that has been dumped in the environment can kill fish, contaminate water and make areas unlivable in high enough concentrations.