Bromine occurs all over the world in relatively high abundance, despite the fact that the isolated element is highly toxic to humans; but it’s not just people who have to worry about bromine—it’s one of the most damaging materials to the atmosphere as well.
One of A Kind
This element is the only nonmetal that is a liquid at room temperature. What’s more, bromine is considered a halogen, meaning that it is never found on its own in nature, though it is commonly found as a salt when reacting with metallic elements.
For this reason, bromine is extracted from brine deposits in places like the U.S. and China. When it was initially discovered in the 1820s by a number of European scientists in France and Germany, seawater was used to perform the isolation.
Common but Deadly
Bromine just looks menacing: oily, red, and highly fragrant, this element isn’t one to be trifled with. It was named after the Greek word “bromos” for stench, as it has a strong, chlorine-like odor.
Breathing in bromine, ingesting it through contaminated food or water, or spilling some on the skin are all ways to experience bromine toxicity. It can damage a number of major organs, as well as cause cancer.
Still, this element isn’t without its uses. Historically, bromine compounds were used as flame retardants in all kinds of products from furniture to electronics, but that use has been ended due to toxicity concerns. It is also used as a fumigant in power plants, and is thought to deplete the atmosphere significantly.
The primary function of bromine now is in agriculture, where it is used as an insecticide among other things.
Dangerous as it may be, bromine has a growing number of uses, and it’s unlikely this material will be phased out completely.