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The aftermath of bromine poisoning from a mattress

(Updated April 2023. See also this post on eliminating bromine from my diet.)

In 2017 I purchased one of those $200 memory-foam, squished-and-rolled-up mattresses that come in a box in the mail, from a company that rhymes with Linus. 

After escaping a moldy apartment, I had bounced around for 18 months before finding a decent rental place, in another state entirely. I had used inflatable mattresses for a lot of that time. This was a major step up.

Lots of red dots

It was very comfortable, and for a week I was quite happy. Then one day I noticed 14 red dots on my torso, upper arms, and legs. These were the same kind of red dots I remember having as a child, and which years later I decided were due to bromine exposure from all those “flame-resistant” nightgowns that we wore back then. The technical name is cherry angioma(s), which I always remember as Chuck Mangiones. Now that I think of it, I still have a scar on my arm from a much larger one that was removed in my 20s by an HMO doctor.

One week of Iodoral iodine

I had the foam mattress hauled off, reinstated the inflatable one, and returned to my iodine protocol of several years before.  I took 12.5 – 50 mg of Iodoral a day for … I don’t remember how long, but it could not have been long because at the time it caused me complete insomnia. The dots were gone within one week, except for one on my sternum, which had in fact become an open sore, and persisted weeks later. That one, I realized, actually preceded the new mattress but I had been ignoring it. 

Finding minimally-processed clothing and bedding

At that point I recalled acquaintances mentioning reacting to a certain type of polyester, which I of course promptly discovered was in ALL of my bras.  God bless polyester and all it made possible in terms of women’s figures. In my family’s home movies from the 1930s, the lovely dresses of the day did not flatter the bosoms of the older women. I went searching for bras made with some combination of cotton, minimal polyester, or organic cotton. It was not easy:

  • Few companies have mastered the art of engineering a bra past a certain size without space-age materials. 
  • The price is painful. The only passable all-cotton versions that I found, from Sweden, were $85.00. 
  • Because they relied on old-fashioned front seaming, those cotton ones did not look good under most tops. Maybe in 1975 it would have been ok.

I did eventually find two styles that worked, the Swede and one with cotton and a little polyester. The sore disappeared a few weeks after I switched to the new bras. After several months I decided the non-Swede was just too awful looking,  so I dumped it and found a new style made of a different type of polyester. So far that sore has not returned.

This experience led me to investigate how to minimize exposure to all types of textile chemicals. My original idea was to replace everything I sat on or wore at length every day, but that turned out to be far more expensive than I had imagined —  $2,000 armchair, $4,000 couch, etc.  The clothing websites advertised as chemical-free or organic were more promising than I’d hoped, but even so, the best stuff was too expensive, the majority of the clothing was t-shirts and leggings, and pants options looked like something from a cult supply store or like the fit would be dicey. Only one major fashion brand — Donna Karan, maybe — sold organic cotton jeans, and was out of my price range.

I decided to limit the project to bedding and sleepwear, so as to obtain at least eight hours a day of minimized chemical exposure. I made these purchases:

  • wool mattress and topper: $1,900
  • organic cotton blanket, which is pretty heavy: $150 from I can’t remember
  • wool-filled pillow: $110 from a now-defunct company
  • organic cotton sheets: from Target, CB2, and I can’t remember. (Be warned that CB2’s organic cotton pillowcases ARE TOO SMALL, the idiots. Or were back then, anyway.)
  • tank tops: $25 each from Farm Fresh Clothing Co.
  • underwear: $12 or so each from Pact and a now-defunct company

Drawbacks to organic bedding and clothing companies

In my search of hundreds of chemical-free / organic clothing and bedding websites, I encountered the following issues:

  • The stuff is expensive.
  • Many organic fabrics require cold water washing. If your household has children and pets, you might be more comfortable with fabrics you can boil wash in hot water whenever an infection/infestation starts going around the menagerie.
  • A lot of the companies are small mom-and-pop stores and the customer service is not super-fast or super-efficient. Exercise patience.
  • The life expectancy of these companies is short. The shopping guide I used had many defunct entries, although it was not that old.
  • Stock is not always available. The fabrics are harder to come by and smaller companies can’t buy as much at one time.
  • Since then, to avoid possible counterfeiting operations, I have starting using a company’s own website to purchase items, rather than its Amazon store.  I started doing this with supplements, and then with pretty much every other type of purchase.

Why didn’t the iodine experiment prevent bromine toxicity?

For seven months I mainlined iodine (see the aforementioned iodine protocol link) and for years I avoided bromine-y chocolate in an attempt to get my iodine levels up and my bromine levels down. (FYI, bromine detox symptoms for me were acne, constant headaches, metallic taste in mouth, sore throat, and a weird stomach stretching sensation. For quite a while, when I got lazy and ate non-organic chocolate, my spine would hurt the next day.) You’d think I would be safe from it now. Perhaps those efforts were enough to counteract the halides that compete with iodine — chlorine (from swimming), bromine (chocolate, nightgowns, mattresses, and who knows what else), and flourine/flouride — but only when no concurrent exposures were happening. Since then I have had:

  • Ongoing exposure to bromine in chocolate: I am not always religious about sticking to organic, bromine-free chocolate. Dark chocolate gives me headaches, and organic milk chocolate is pricey and occasionally hard to find. (FYI, Rite-Aid and Erewhon carry Green & Black’s organic milk chocolate bars).
  • Ongoing exposure to fluoride: I had been drinking Arrowhead Mountain Spring bottled water, which later showed up on a list of brands with high flouride content. Flouride displaces iodine, which I think would make bromine more likely to build up in the body, but don’t quote me. The Arrowhead website lists the amount as a range from non-detectable to 1.3 ppm, the latter number which, according to FlourideAlert dot org, is higher than the high-end of artificially (I guess municipally) fluoridated water. Anyway, I did change water sources and did detect a difference, but that’s a post for another day.


This content was first published in January 2018, and updated in July 2022 and April 2023.

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Marjorie R.

Marjorie is the creator of AvoidingRx.com, a record of her and her guest authors’ experiences with non-prescription health solutions. She is a third-generation nutritional-therapy self-experimenter.

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