Potassium bromate sources, health risks

Saturday, October 07, 2017 by

Potassium bromate, also known as bromate, is a white crystalline powder that can be made by either dissolving bromine in a solution of hot potassium hydroxide, or by the electrolysis of potassium bromide solution. It’s most famous application is that of an oxidant in breads: potassium bromate encourages dough development by strengthening the dough for greater resiliency and volume, as well as enhancing the elasticity of the bread. This food additive is affordable and widely available, further contributing to its popularity in bread baking in the 90s.

Unfortunately, potassium bromate can saturate dough that aren’t baked at a high enough temperature or for the appropriate period of time. Adding copious amounts of potassium bromate at the beginning of the bread-making process can lead to potassium bromate saturation as well. The consumption of baked goods with potassium bromate still inside them have been found to be hazardous to human health for a disturbing number of reasons, leading to numerous countries to ban its usage in food products.

Harmful effects that can be caused by potassium bromate

Potassium bromate is considered to be a possible human carcinogen, and was labeled as such in 1999 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). According to EWG.org, potassium bromate has been found to increase the incidence of benign and malignant tumors in the kidneys, thyroid glands, abdominal cavity lining, and other organs of animals. Furthermore, potassium bromate has been observed promoting the development of cancer by transforming molecules into oxides and radicals that damage DNA. Though it’s been claimed that baking turns potassium bromate into the similar yet non-carcinogenic potassium bromide, this was discovered to be false and that potassium bromate remains detectable in bread.

In response to this, the European Union, South Korea, Canada, Peru, Sri Lanka, and many more countries have banned potassium bromate as a food additive. The state of California issued a mandate in 1991 requiring baked products to carry cancer warnings on their labels if these produces were made using potassium bromate.

The researchers behind a 2016 study published in Behavioral and Brain Functions discovered that potassium bromate, even in low doses, can bring about neurobehavioral changes and can damage the histological sections of the brain. Therefore, the researchers concluded that potassium bromate has “serious damaging effects on the central nervous system” and that “its use should be avoided.”

In addition, potassium bromate can disrupt genetic materials in cells, and as such should be avoided by pregnant women.

Pure potassium bromate can be just as harmful. The accidental ingestion of potassium bromate can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Inhalation of potassium bromate aerosol can result in coughing and sore throat. Direct contact, meanwhile, can bring about redness in the skin and eyes, and pain in the vision.

Body systems harmed by potassium bromate

The potassium bromate in breads have been shown to cause tumors to develop on the kidneys, thyroid, and digestive system. Even small doses of potassium bromate can damage the nervous system. Moreover, pure potassium bromate can irritate the respiratory system, skin, and eyes.

Where to learn more


Potassium bromate is a carcinogenic food additive that has the potential to bring about the cancers of the thyroid gland, kidneys, and abdominal lining. It can harm the skin, eyes, nervous, and respiratory systems as well.

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