Well, this is a chemistry blog, and I feel my skin crawl watching various scientific terms and concepts flying around sans context. So, let's set a few things right:
- Bromide, bromine, and brominated all refer to elemental bromine, but they aren't interchangeable terms! Bromide refers to a single bromine atom with a full octet of electrons [reduced, or "Br(-)"], and is usually found in ionic salts (e.g. potassium or sodium bromide). Bromine refers to the element itself, a corrosive brown liquid. "Brominated" refers to a compound, usually carbon-based, that contains bromine atoms. Now you know.
- Just because you cite the 2011 Scientific American article regarding BVO overexposure does not mean you've vetted the science! I've looked all over (WebMD, PubMed, SciFinder) for incidences of BVO poisoning, overdose, or excessive consumption, and I find...two. The 2003 NEJM (Ruby Red Squirt), and the 1997 J. Clin. Toxicol. (2-4 L of cola daily). Please don't say "a few" or "some" when you mean two.
- Emulsifiers, such as BVO, don't "weigh down" or "sink" the citrus oil - they emulsify it! That means they help to disperse one liquid into another liquid, by promoting formation of tiny droplets of one inside the other. And it's not the use of "heavy" bromine atoms that does this, either. Even if it were, at 8 ppm (8 molecules BVO per ~1,000,000 of water), that's not a lot of mass! It's physics, folks. **Update (1/27/2013) -OK, you win this one, Internet! BVO really is a "weighting agent," and I won't harp on this point. Thanks, Prof. Kass.
- Chemophobia: Do we really have to have "chemical" in every lede? Much less reference the well-worn 'fire retardant' factoid? I'll tell you about another "fire-retardant chemical" widely found in soft drinks...it's called water.
Hope this helps!
-SAO*A Pepsico brand, although some media relations person obviously told them to expunge all references to BVO or 'brominated' from their parent site...try the search box!
***Update (1/30/13) - CNN's coverage seems to have eschewed science to focus on PR reps and corporate statements: "...bromine is cited in some chemical company patents as a flame retardant." Sigh.