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Environ Geochem Health. 1988 Jun;10(2):51-61. doi: 10.1007/BF01758592.

Sources of halogens in the environment, influences on human and animal health.

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Centre for Applied Geochemistry, University College of Wales, SY23 3DB, Aberystwyth, Dyfed, Wales.


Of the halogens, fluorine has the highest crustal abundance (544 mg/kg) while iodine has the lowest (0.25 mg/kg), however, chlorine is by far the most abundant halogen in the cosmos. The geochemistries of the four naturally occurring halogens have some similarities with fluorine, chlorine and bromine being classified as lithophile elements while iodine is more chalcophile in nature. Bromine and iodine behave in a similar fashion in the secondary environment and could be classified as biophile elements being concentrated in organic matter. Chlorine, bromine and iodine are strongly enriched in the sea while iodine and to a lesser extent bromine are further concentrated in the marine algae.Apart from the occurrence of fluorine in fluorite (CaF2) there are few commonly occurring minerals which contain the halogens as essential constituents. In the igneous environment fluorine and chlorine tend to occupy hydroxyl lattice sites in micas, amphiboles, apatites etc., while in sediments clays can contain appreciable quantities of these elements. Bromine and iodine, however, would be unlikely to fit into the lattice sites of common rock-forming minerals.Bromine, like iodine, is probably volatilised from the marine environment and is carried on to land surfaces. This behaviour of iodine and bromine is reflected in the increased I/CI and Br/CI ratios of surface run-off in continental compared with near coastal environments.Limited information on the soil geochemistry of the halogens suggests that the soil contents of chlorine, bromine and iodine are influenced by proximity to the sea. Soil fluorine, however, is generally dependent on its content in the parent material. In some areas pollutant sources of the halogens contribute appreciably to their concentration in the environment.Iodine and chlorine are essential elements for mammals and fluorine has been shown to have beneficial effects on bone and tooth formation. However, excess quantities of dietary fluorine can be harmful. It is possible, in view of its ubiquitous occurrence in the biosphere, that bromine has a hitherto unknown function in human and animal health.


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