Bromine Poisoning from Hot Tub – Causes & Fixes

When asked the most important thing to take care of in a hot tub, the most probable and easy answer would be a sanitizer. However, while bromine keeps you and your loved ones safe while having fun or taking a break to relax, it is essential to maintain its ideal levels. 

This is because when bromine is at the recommended range, it effectively kills bacteria and when in high concentration levels, can cause several health issues.

What is bromine?

Bromine is a reddish-brown liquid with a pungent odor and irritates your eyes, skin, and respiratory system. When concentrated in a vaporous form, exposure to this element can be pretty harmful, if not fatal, even when exposed for a short while. Similar to any other halogen, bromine exists as a diatomic molecule in all aggregation states.

When mixed with water, the solution is bromine water, and similar to chlorine water, it is an excellent oxidizing agent. However, it is even more useful as it does not readily decompose – it liberates iodine from iodide and sulfur from hydrogen sulfide solutions.

Is bromine toxic?

Bromine is toxic since, as a human, you can absorb bromine through the skin, during breathing, and from food. Actually, organic bromine is widely used to kill insects and unwanted pests, as they are poisonous to animals and insects. 

The primary health effects of bromine are malfunctioning of your nervous system, damaging the thyroid gland, and disturbance in your genetic materials.

Bromine can also cause your organs, such as lungs, kidneys, liver, and others to fail. It can also cause gastrointestinal and stomach malfunctioning, while some forms even cause cancer.

How is bromine used in hot tubs and spas?

Bromine provides an effective alternative to chlorine for when you disinfect your hot tub water. Bromine is used to disinfect your water by killing any bacteria and germs while oxidizing any organic material out in the water. The tablets are placed in a dispenser that floats and offers a slow release of bromine into the water.

How are you exposed to bromine in hot tubs and spas?

Improper use of bromine can lead to saturation of the compound in your tub, pool, or spa, exposing your skin to the poison, causing irritations, burns, or rashes. However, when it comes in contact with your skin, you may feel a slight cooling sensation before it starts burning. 

It can also combine with ammonia to form bromines, lessening the chemical’s effect. This makes it possible for you to have good readings while still having bacteria and other microorganisms that aren’t eliminated by the chemical. 

What are the signs of bromine on the body?

Exposing your skin to bromine may irritate it and cause burns. When liquid bromine penetrates your skin, it causes a cooling sensation, closely followed by a burning feeling.

Breathing bromine can cause you to have trouble breathing, cough, headache, irritate your mucus membrane, watery eyes or become dizzy.

Ingesting bromine or compounds that contain the substance has different effects depending on the compound it is part of. However, consuming large amounts may cause you to vomit or feel nausea, mainly gastrointestinal symptoms.

However, a person showing the above symptoms may not necessarily be exposed to bromine. Therefore, always seek medical attention before administering anything to the affected.

Signs and symptoms of bromine exposure in a hot tub or spa

When bromine levels are high in your tub or spa, you may begin to exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Irritation on your skin and burns, when bromine gets in contact with your skin, you first get a cooling sensation before it starts itching and burning before it causes a rash. 
  • You can also have difficulty breathing, nausea, or a severe cough. If it contacts your eyes, they may become sore, red, itchy, and watery.

Since spas and tubs don’t have high concentrations, the effects may not be as severe. However, if you have any of the above while it may not be bromine poisoning, seek medical attention.

What are the long-term effects of bromine exposure?

Surviving severe poisoning from inhaling large amounts of bromine can leave you with long-term lung problems.

Surviving ingesting bromine can also leave you with long-term effects from the damage done by systemic poisoning. An example is having either kidney or brain damage due to low blood pressure.

How do you protect yourself from bromine exposure in hot tubs?

Exposing your hair to bromine can cause havoc, mainly if dry or already damaged. This may include coloring it, resulting in highly porous hair. Follow the tips to protect your hair

  • The first thing is to rinse your hair before getting into the water as porous air absorbs more bromine, making it coarse and dry. Wetting your hair slows down its absorption rate, helping retain hair moisture.
  • Always use some hair sealant like a moisturizing hair product to help protect and lock in moisture.
  • The best way to protect your hair from bromine is using a good-quality shower or swim cap. This adds a barrier to the bromine trying to get to your hair.
  • Always rinse your hair immediately after your bath and shampoo. This helps remove any residue preventing further absorption.
  • A good life hack always ensures you use a conditioner after shampooing to lock in the moisture. There are loads of conditioners specially formulated to deal with bromine damage and repair in hair. 

Below are several simple tips to help you protect your skin.

  • While there isn’t much you can do for your skin during the bath, make sure you take a shower immediately after you get out. Ensure you use a pH. balanced soap with warm water and for those with sensitive skin, consider a body wash designed to neutralize bromine.
  • Use a moisturizer to try and balance the moisture lost from the bath.
  • You can also protect your eyes by wearing disposable contact lenses and removing them immediately or using swimming glasses.

With these tips, your eyes, skin and hair will be protected from the bromine in the pool water. 

What do you do if exposed to bromine?

If exposed to bromine, the first step is to get fresh air and leave the bromine exposed air or water. Moving to an open area with lots of fresh air is an excellent way to reduce any possible adverse health effects from exposure.

Always go to the highest ground possible, as bromine is heavier than air and will sink to low areas. If the bromine release was inside a building, get out.

If you think or have been exposed to bromine, remove all your clothing. Rapidly wash your entire body lathering with soap and water, and get medical care as soon as possible. 

Any clothing that has to be pulled over your head should be cut off instead of pulled over your head. Avoid touching any contaminated surfaces or areas, and remove the clothing as fast as possible.

If your eyes are red and itchy and your vision is blurry, or your eyes are burning, rinse your eyes with running plain water for up to 15 minutes. Remove contact lenses if you wear them, and dispose of them with the contaminated materials. If you wear glasses, wash them with soap before using them.

All the contaminated material should be put in a plastic bag and sealed. Doing so helps protect you, other people, and the environment from getting exposed.

If anyone ingested bromine, do not try to make them vomit or fluids and instead seek immediate medical attention.

Bromine poisoning treatment

There is no proven antidote for bromine poisoning. However, bromine is treated through supportive medical care: this can be through oxygen fluids through an IV from a medical practitioner. The most crucial factor is for you to get away from exposure and seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

Final Thoughts

While bromine and its compounds help keep the water in a pool or spa free of germs, it can also be dangerous if users are exposed to it in unhealthy amounts. Luckily, it’s not lethal and its effects can be easily mitigated with the tips provided above. 

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