People should obviously be curious about the chemicals they put in their pool. Bromine, in pellets or liquid, is cheap and widely available as a pool sanitation chemical. But is it safe to use?
What is Bromine?
Bromine is a halogen with similar chemical makeup to chlorine, another commonly used pool sanitation product. Bromine is used more frequently than in the past because it was found to be cheaper to manufacture than chlorine. (There is a relatively larger quantity of bromine in ocean water.) Some pool sanitation products even use a combination of bromine and chlorine. Bromine as a concentrated substance is corrosive and toxic to humans, but in the small doses recommended, it typically causes nothing but eye irritation. However, prolonged exposure can sometimes cause so-called "spa pool dermatitis" or bromine rash, a rash that will go away with time, but might worsen with prolonged or repetitive exposure to the bromine/water source.
Compound Causes Concern
In 2003, a 41-year-old man in Quebec used Pro Guard® sanitation pellets, which used a 1-bromo-3-chloro5,5-dimethylhydantoin compound as the active sanitation ingredient. According to Contact Dermititis, he developed a contact allergy with the chemical, but was fine after switching to lithium hypochlorite pellets. Most people seem to have the most frequent skin reactions when using this particular compound of bromine. Also, many people that have allergic reactions to bromine-based chemicals find medical relief by switching to a hypochlorite-based sanitizer.
Comparison to Chlorine
In 1994, a study by the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine in Australia suggested that the difference between the health effects of bromine and chlorine (namely, eye or skin irritation) was minimal, but the sample size used in the study was small.
Bromine is not safer as a "chlorine alternative" as many may think. It is of similar makeup as chlorine, but slightly more dangerous since it is more water soluble. This means the chemical can find its way into the body easier and can be stored longer.
Side Effects of Overexposure
Bromine can be dangerous in over-specified quantities. According to the Children's Hospital Pediatric Environmental Health Center, a 1999 youth hockey team using a motel swimming pool was introduced to twice the maximum ideal concentration of bromine. They were subjected to several medical symptoms, including mucous membrane irritation, fatigue, headache, myalgias and gastrointestinal problems. Children are more susceptible to health effects caused by most water-soluble chemicals, and bromine is no exception. People with children should try for the lower suggested concentration recommendations when adding their sanitizer.