Patented as a flame retardant for plastics, and banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, a brominated chemical called BVO has been added to sodas for decades in North America. Now some scientists have a renewed interest in this little-known ingredient, found in 10 percent of sodas in the United States.
Research on its toxicity dates back to the 1970s, and some experts now urge a reassessment. After a few extreme soda binges – not too far from what many video gamers regularly consume – a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine. Other studies suggest that BVO could be building up in human tissues. In mouse studies, big doses caused reproductive and behavioral problems.