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Bromine Hazards And Swim Spas

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I have had a swim spa for 8 years now. It's enclosed in a room specifically built for the spa. I am a swim instructor, I keep it heated and I use it year round. I have used Bromine in it since day 1. A week ago, a friend sent me an article about bromine and the hazards it has on your thyroid and the cancers that it causes. I had thyroid issues a few years ago, had part of my thyroid removed. My doctor never suggested that could be a problem, he knew what I did for a living, I spend 4-5 hours a day in my pool! I'm curious if anyone else has experienced thyroid problems. Just Google it.

I'd really like to switch to another product, I'm using Chlorine now in the pool but I'd prefer something more natural, does anyone have any suggestions.

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If you were drinking large quantities of spa water, then there might be an issue, but since that is unlikely to have been the case then your thyroid problem was probably not related to your bromine usage and probably why your doctor didn't mention it. The following are some scientific studies in peer-reviewed respected journals (or equivalent summary papers) regarding bromide and the thyroid:

Effects of sodium bromide on the biosynthesis of thyroid hormones and brominated/iodinated thyronines

Metabolism of Bromide and Its Interference with the Metabolism of Iodine

The Effect of Sodium Bromide on Thyroid Function

Interaction of bromine with iodine in the rat thyroid gland at enhanced bromide intake

Bromide in drinking-water (WHO)

The dermal absorption of bromide is essentially negligible so it is very unlikely you increased your bromide intake by soaking in the spa and bromine itself is not volatile enough for you to breath in enough compared to the quantities of concern from ingested sources (it is volatile and you do smell it, but the quantities are very small, though do enter into the lungs). That's probably why your doctor didn't mention it. He may also have looked at blood tests that did not show abnormally high levels of bromide. You could ask him for a specific bromide blood test (it's not a common test -- normally done for occupational exposure) if you wanted to know if your blood levels had significant bromide.

As for cancer risk, the brominated disinfection by-products are generally more mutagenic/carcinogenic than their chlorinated counterparts so from that perspective there is more risk in a bromine spa, but the risk is still very low. If you want to reduce your risk, then chlorine would be of lower risk than bromine.

As for using a non-halogen system, for a hot spa only you can use Nature2 (silver ions) with MPS. This will not work in cooler water such as in a pool. The EPA approval is only for spas because hot water temperatures are required to achieve the fast kill rates.

The only non-halogen EPA-approved system for pools is Baquacil/biguanide/PHMB, but that comes with its own problems of high cost and the potential for white water mold. For a spa or other small water volume where you change the water, one can more easily avoid the problems.

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