Bromine contamination and risk management in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

Alessandra C. Leri, Oshadi Hettithanthri, Shiv Bolan, Tao Zhang, Jason Unrine, Satish Myneni, Danielle R. Nachman, Huu Tuan Tran, Ankur J. Phillips, Deyi Hou, Yidong Wang, Meththika Vithanage, Lokesh P. Padhye, Tahereh Jasemi Zad, Anna Heitz, Kadambot H.M. Siddique, Hailong Wang, Jörg Rinklebe, M. B. Kirkham, Nanthi Bolan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Bromine (Br) is widely distributed through the lithosphere and hydrosphere, and its chemistry in the environment is affected by natural processes and anthropogenic activities. While the chemistry of Br in the atmosphere has been comprehensively explored, there has never been an overview of the chemistry of Br in soil and aquatic systems. This review synthesizes current knowledge on the sources, geochemistry, health and environmental threats, remediation approaches, and regulatory guidelines pertaining to Br pollution in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Volcanic eruptions, geothermal streams, and seawater are the major natural sources of Br. In soils and sediments, Br undergoes natural cycling between organic and inorganic forms, with bromination reactions occurring both abiotically and through microbial activity. For organisms, Br is a non-essential element; it is passively taken up by plant roots in the form of the Br- anion. Elevated Br- levels can limit plant growth on coastal soils of arid and semi-arid environments. Br is used in the chemical industry to manufacture pesticides, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, and other products. Anthropogenic sources of organobromine contaminants in the environment are primarily wastewater treatment, fumigants, and flame retardants. When aqueous Br- reacts with oxidants in water treatment plants, it can generate brominated disinfection by-products (DBPs), and exposure to DBPs is linked to adverse human health effects including increased cancer risk. Br- can be removed from aquatic systems using adsorbents, and amelioration of soils containing excess Br- can be achieved by leaching, adding various amendments, or phytoremediation. Developing cost-effective methods for Br- removal from wastewater would help address the problem of toxic brominated DBPs. Other anthropogenic organobromines, such as polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants, are persistent, toxic, and bioaccumulative, posing a challenge in environmental remediation. Future research directives for managing Br pollution sustainably in various environmental settings are suggested here.

Original languageEnglish
Article number133881
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - May 5 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024


  • Bromine
  • Disinfection
  • Fossil fuel
  • Human toxicity
  • Mining
  • Remediation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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