What is Bromine?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Bromine is a nonmetallic chemical element that bears the distinction of being the only nonmetallic element that is liquid at room temperature. It is highly toxic and extremely reactive, requiring extreme care when it is handled. Bromine is used in an assortment of industrial compounds and cleaners, and it is readily available from a number of sources. People who have a swimming pool or hot tub may already be familiar with with this element in the form of tablets that are used to treat water.

Bromine is identified by the symbol Br on the periodic table of elements, and it has an atomic number of 35.
Bromine is identified by the symbol Br on the periodic table of elements, and it has an atomic number of 35.

The element is identified by the symbol Br on the periodic table of elements, and it has an atomic number of 35. The name is derived from the Greek bromos, for “stench,” a reference to the characteristic sharp and unpleasant odor of bromine. It is classified among the halogen elements, which share the traits of extreme reactivity and the ability to produce salts when exposed to metals. In addition, all halogen elements are nonmetallic, and they exist in all three states of matter at or near room temperature.

Bromine is sometimes used to treat the water in swimming pools.
Bromine is sometimes used to treat the water in swimming pools.

Bromine itself is a heavy reddish brown liquid. It is very corrosive, making handling of it extremely inadvisable without protections, and it is also highly volatile. The vapor has a quite unpleasant smell, which also alerts people to dangerously high concentrations of bromine. Some chemists believe that it is difficult to be seriously injured by bromine because the smell will drive a person out of the room before the element hurts him or her. It is still an excellent idea for people to cover their eyes, nose, and mouth when working with bromine, and gloves should always be worn as well.

The Dead Sea has an abundance of bromine.
The Dead Sea has an abundance of bromine.

The element was discovered in 1826 by Antoine Balard, who was exploring the contents of the water in sea marshes. In addition to discovering and naming bromine, Balard also worked on other elements, such as chlorine. By 1860, the element was being manufactured on a large scale from seawater and deposits of salts. Brine wells continue to be a major source, and the Dead Sea is another abundant source of the useful element.

To activate the hot tub bromine, other chemicals must be used to trigger it.
To activate the hot tub bromine, other chemicals must be used to trigger it.

In addition to being used in water purification, bromine is also used as an antiseptic agent and sanitizer. Photo chemicals also contain it, and it can be found in dyes, fumigants, and anti-knock mixtures for automotives. People may note that many of these compounds are considered toxic, and that their handling directions include protection of the eyes, airway, and skin.

Because the smell of bromine would most likely drive a person out of a room, some chemists believe that it would be difficult to be seriously injured by it.
Because the smell of bromine would most likely drive a person out of a room, some chemists believe that it would be difficult to be seriously injured by it.
Bromine is known to have a sharp and unpleasant odor.
Bromine is known to have a sharp and unpleasant odor.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon330261

Articles are circulating on FB that Mt. Dew contains "brominated vegetable oil". Is this an acceptable amount to ingest? Why does the FDA allow it? Is it used in other sodas?

anon305793

What does bromine smell like? What is the state of matter at room temperature for Bromine? Is it flammable? What does it feel like?

anon268623

@anon9692: It says it right there in the article... it's named after the latin word "bromos."

anon36254

How do i get rid of bromine in my body?

bittner2000

why does it say " unbrominated " on the bag of cooking flour?

anon9692

why is it called bromine? is there like a french word or something behind this scientific element?

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