Bromine Toxicity: Real or Not?

Bromine: Secret Toxin?

Reference: Endocrine Society, Oncology Letter,


What do you know about bromine? I bet not much. It’s in the halide family, meaning the same family as chlorine and iodine and fluorine. Iodine is the biggest size of the lot, then smaller bromine, then chlorine and finally fluorine. They all share a negative one charge, so act the same chemically. They differ only in size and weight. Bromine is easily extracted from ocean salt brine pools, and is used industrially as a fire retardant. It used to be used as an insecticide in the form of methyl bromide, but that turned out to be a potent ozone depletor, so that got nixed. And once upon a time it was used as an anti-anxiety drug, and hence the term, “Bromides” for trite and trivial soothing answers.

The issue of bromine that I want to explore is that of its competition with iodine. We need iodine. Desparately. It is one of the elements that all of us are just barely getting enough of. The WHO considers iodine deficiency the #1 cause of mental retardation in the world. And Americans are prone to it too. In Milwaukee, in the year 1900, 50% of women had goiter, the result of iodine deficiency. Today, 80% of American women have fibrocystic disease, an iodine deficiency illness. There is considerable research that shows iodine to be an anti cancer drug and a cure for fibrocystic breast disease.

So what’s the problem? Here’s the rub. Bromine competes with iodine. In fact, every halide competes with iodine. But bromine may be the worst, not because it’s obvious, but because it is subtle and pervasive. Bromine acts chemically just like iodine. It has never, ever, ever, been in the human nutrient supply chain, until the 1950s when it was substituted for iodine as a stabilizer in bread. Some states ban it, but not all. Then, we added it to every chair, mattress and couch in our lives as a fire retardant. We sold it in Bromo-Selzer until the bromide was removed in 1975 for “toxicity“. Bromine may not be a perfect fit for iodine in the process of making thyroid hormone, or in normal breast tissue, but it’s plentiful, pervasive and competitive.

And then we got our undies in a bundle over the supposed toxicity of iodine. A bizarre little story of iodine toxicity developed around the so called “Wolf-Chaikoff Effect” that was an experiment in rats, extrapolated to humans but never clinically proven in humans. I’m quite interested in it personally because, as a child up till age 18 in India, I used iodine to purify water, and on many occasions used iodine up to 10 pills a day (at 2.4 mg of iodine per pill). That was not uncommon practice. Made the water taste terrible, but killed all sorts of nasties. I don’t believe the Wolf-Chaikoff effect is real, and if it is, it is very short term and harmless. It’s not the bugaboo we think it is.

What the real danger, I believe, is that lots of us have a burden of bromine from environmental exposure (fluorine too). It’s not super toxic, or immediately toxic, but it shows up in many folks having flakey thyroid findings because they just can’t get their thyroid to function right. There appears to be a whole cottage industry in detoxing from bromine with salt water flushes. This idea has its detractors as well.

Szent-Gyorgyi, the Nobel Laureate for Vitamin C, took 1,000 mg a day of iodine until he was 93, claiming it to be his most useful supplement. He might be our most famous credible advocate for iodine supplementation, but he is not alone.

WWW.What Will Work for me. I take iodine as a supplement. 1 mg a day. I think we all should. Every woman worried about breast cancer and every man worried about prostate cancer should too. I’ve now met three people taking over 25 mg a day in the form of Iodoral pills. They feel great. No toxicity as far as I can tell. Szent-Gyorgyi took 1,000 mg a day. It appears to me there is latitude for higher doses. I’m thinking this may be what is missing in some folks whose thyroids otherwise just doesn’t act right. I would really like to hear from someone who had toxicity from iodine. I don’t there there are really too many. And I do think there are many of us with too much fluoride, bromide and chlorine in our food chain, all competing with iodine. Precautionary principle: we have too many halides in our food chain that were never there before, and are skimming along on the edge of insufficient iodine because of unproven fears. The only way to push those halides out, bromine included, is more iodine. So do it.

Pop Quiz:

‪1. Bromine toxicity is a proven phenomenon. T or F

Well, really false if you look at the standard PubMed literature, except for the obvious high dose poisoning, but enough advocates out there are claiming it. Are they crazy? Or is it all mixed up in our overblown anxiety about iodine?

‪2. Bromine can chemically act like iodine, and compete with it. T or F

‪This seems to be true. How much, we just can’t tell.

‪3. Iodine deficiency is real. T or F

Emphatically true. If you consider fibrocystic breast disease as an iodine deficiency disorder, its ubiquitous. If you listen to WHO, it’s our number one cause of mental retardation. Apparently very common in politicians. (Small joke)

‪4. Iodine toxicity is real. T or F

I’m coming down on the side of probably false. Too many anecdotes of much higher doses. And it will never be studied. Way too cheap.

‪5. There are many folks taking more than 12 mg a day of iodine without trouble. T or F

Well, yes. After Fukushima, many Japanese took 65-130 mg a day of iodine, and we didn’t see a huge epidemic of iodine toxicity from that. Think about that for a couple of minutes. I know of many who have taken 12.4 mg a day for years, with no apparent toxicity. Szent-Gyorgyi took 1,000 mg a day until he stopped working at Woods Hole at age 93.  I know, I know, there may be some issue with Hashimoto’s.  I haven’t seen much of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *