A chemical banned throughout Europe and Japan, and first patented as a flame retardant? It also happens to be in sodas and sports drinks. It’s called brominated vegetable oil, and is added as an emulsifier to prevent flavoring from separating and floating to the surface of a drink.
This bonded substance between vegetable and bromine is in more things than one would think. Included in this rather daunting list is Mountain Dew, Fresca Original, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, and Powerade, among others. Bromines are common endocrine disruptors. They are part of the halide family which is a group of elements that include fluorine, chlorine, and iodine. What makes bromine dangerous is that it competes for the same receptors that are used to capture iodine, and if one is exposed to too much bromine, one’s body will not retain the iodine it needs, affecting not just one’s thyroid gland, but every tissue in their body.
15 year old Sarah Kavanagh of Hattiesburg, Miss. found brominated vegetable oil among the ingredients in Gatorade and also found it to cause neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones, among other negative effects. “She threw the product away and started a petition on Change.org, an online petition platform, that has almost 200,000 signatures. Ms. Kavanagh, 15, hopes her campaign will persuade PepsiCo, Gatorade’s maker, to consider changing the drink’s formulation.”
The bromine half of the brominated vegetable oil can also be found in medications such as Atrovent Inhaler, Atrovent Nasal Spray, Pro-Banthine (for ulcers), and anesthesia agents, as well as baked goods, fire retardants, and bromine-based hot tub and swimming pool treatments. The results of iodine deficiency can in turn lead to an increased risk for breast, thyroid gland, ovary and prostate cancer–cancers that we see at alarmingly high rates today.
Iodine is crucial for the body’s proper thyroid function. Without it your thyroid gland would be unable to produce the thyroid hormone your body requires Some experts claim that 10 to 40 percent of Americans have suboptimal thyroid function, however, many of these same Americans have nothing wrong with their thyroid gland. They may very well just be suffering from iodine deficiency brought on by too little iodine-containing foods as well as too much exposure to bromine, whether that be in the form of bromine-laced foods and drinks, or from some other source blocking iodine intake.
What does this mean for the average American living in a highly chemical-steeped, processed society? Do we walk around scanning packages and containers nervously for brominated vegetable oil and other of its ilk? We can begin by making a difference by petitioning for a change in the unhealthy formulation of drinks and other substances, and with a bit of research, it is also possible to find less harmful substitutes. Convenience does indeed seem to be one of our greatest enemies, but in considering thyroid gland complications, higher risk of certain cancers, and general dangerous health problems compared to momentary swilling of a sugar and chemical-imbued liquid, the decision should not be too hard to make.