Cola with ice cubes
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Bromine is a naturally occurring element in nature, but that doesn't mean it's safe. In fact, exposure to high levels of bromine can cause short-term physical effects as well as potential long-term health problems. Knowing what foods contain bromine is the first step in cutting your intake and protecting your health.

Bromine 101

Bromine is a brownish-red element that is liquid at room temperature and smells similar to bleach, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's found in the earth's crust and in ocean waters, and it's often used as an alternative to chlorine in swimming pools. Humans are exposed to bromine if the element leaches into drinking water or comes into contact with foods, such as crops that are irrigated with water containing bromine. Forms of bromine are used as food additives as well. Bromine poisoning can cause nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, headache, trouble breathing and lung problems, the CDC reports. Exposure to bromine can also cause thyroid disruptions.

Choose Produce With Care

While fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritious sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals, some kinds are also likely to be treated with pesticides that contain bromine. One form of bromine, called methyl bromine or methyl bromide, is often used as an insecticide on crops, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry. The element is most often used, however, to disinfect the soil before planting crops. Exposure is most likely when eating strawberries and tomatoes, though nuts, peppers, grapes and other vine crops can be contaminated as well, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pass on the Soda

You should restrict your intake of soda because it's so high in calories and sugar, but the presence of brominated vegetable oil, a form of bromine, is another reason to pass on the sugary beverages. Brominated vegetable oil is added to certain citrus-flavored soft drinks to keep flavor oils suspended in the liquid, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. While some soda companies, as of 2014, are attempting to phase out the use of brominated vegetable oil, it's still used in some sodas. The food additive can cause toxicity in people who drink large amounts of soda, and it can also cause growth and development problems and leave residues in the liver, brain and other organs, according to the CSPI.

Read Food Labels on Baked Goods

Reading food labels is a crucial way to reduce or eliminate bromine from your diet. For example, white flour, breads and rolls can contain another food additive form of bromine called potassium bromate. This additive increases the volume of baked goods, but it has also been linked to the formation of cancer and has been banned in all countries except Japan and the United States, according to the CSPI.