Breathing in the Bromide

This week took me once again to the Dead Sea for another Places in Your Neighborhood trip to Lido, Qumran and Einot Tzukim.  This week the weather was warm and a little breezy – much nicer than the weather we would have experienced had we gone last week.

As we were overlooking the original evaporation ponds of the Dead Sea Works, one of the participants asked me about the commercial application of the Bromide mined here.  I thought perhaps it was used in industry, but thought the subject merited more research.

Bromide is one of the three main minerals mined from the Dead Sea.  The other two being Magnesium and Potash.  Israel is the world’s largest producer of Bromide with 40% of the world’s bromide coming from the Dead Sea!    Most salt water bodies in the world contain 65 parts per million (ppm) bromide; the Dead Sea, in contrast has over 4,000 ppm bromide.

Although bromide compounds have been known for years, the element itself was only isolated in 1824.  The name comes from bromos, a Greek word meaning “stench”.  It is one of only two elements which exist as a liquid, the other being mercury.

Bromide compounds have a place in Jewish law.  According to the Ptil Tekhelet organization, the dye mentioned in the Bible which was used on tzitzit, is extracted from Tyrian purple (dibromoindigo) which on exposure to the sunlight, loses its bromide to become indigo.  This dye, according to the organization, must come from the murex trunculus snail in order to satisfy Jewish law as tekhelet.  This bromide compound (and the snail associated with it, obviously) do not come from the Dead Sea, but many other important bromide compounds do originate there.

Currently, some bromide compounds are used as flame retardants.  Fifteen different brominated chemicals are currently manufactured by the Dead Sea Bromide Group as flame retardants, including some which are polymers.

Another bromide product made from the Dead Sea’s bromide is methylbromide – a pesticide.  Research has showed a possible link between methylbromide and a negative effect on the ozone layer, and so, this chemical application is under pressure to be phased out.

Potassium Bromide (KBr) was, until 1912 the only effective drug available for treating epilepsy, and is still used mainly for treating the disease in dogs.  What KBr does is to calm the nervous system down, making it an option as a sedative in large mammals as well.  It is suggested that the high level of Bromide in the Dead Sea may lead people to relax a bit when in the vicinity (and I thought it was the anticipation of a nice massage that was causing me to relax…)

I am so happy that the people who are touring with me ask interesting questions.  So, here’s this bit on Bromide.

Next month’s Places in Your Neighborhood will be to the town of Ramle.  Most people know Ramle only for her social services, but there is a lot more to see if you only look!  Wonder what interesting questions and insights will surface there….

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2 thoughts on “Breathing in the Bromide

  1. I really like that the bromide is meant to relax and now know why I automatically long for a good massage as soon as I get to the Dead Sea…can you clarify if just by ‘breathing’ in the Dead Sea vicinity are we absorbing the bromide? Is it evaporating into the air and we are inhaling it giving us some of its relaxation benefits or does it need to be ingested to be effective? Just curious.

    • According to the Ma’in Spa in Zarka Ma’in (in Jordan), Bromine in the Dead Sea has a relaxing effect even for those who bathe in Dead Sea waters – implying that the mineral evaporates and is inhaled. Clinical uses for bromine compounds as anticonvulsives were in ingestible form. Maybe take a trip to Jordan to check out this spa at the end of the road is in order? We have always wondered what the Jordanian side is like. The hot springs in Zarka Ma’in were frequented by King Herod, so probably the accomodations are up to par.

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