Global Iodine Deficiency Day

Iodine is an essential element for healthy neurological and endocrine development. A lack of iodine in the diet may lead to mental retardation, goitre, or thyroid disease. Dependent upon the severity of the deficiency, a lack of iodine can cause significant delay in mental development, something that can be particularly detrimental if it occurs in childhood. According to the World Health Organization in 2007, almost 2 billion people worldwide were suffering from a lack of iodine in their diets, a third of which were children and young people. Iodine deficiency is a relatively simple affliction to correct, however much of the population continues to go untreated.

October 21st is Global Iodine Deficiency Day, dedicated to spreading awareness about the dangers of keeping a diet with insufficient amounts of iodine. The International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) is the only international organization that specifically concentrates on iodine deficiency issues and is a key player in the promotion and success of Global Iodine Deficiency Day.

Iodine can easily be added to common foods and is most widely found in table salt. For developed societies, modifications such as using iodized salt and eating fish as part of a normal dietary routine are enough to stave off most of the severe affects of iodine deficiency. However, populations in many underdeveloped and developing nations are facing the issue of either not having access to sources of iodine, not having enough of those sources, or they are lacking the nutritional education that would make them aware of how to alter their diets appropriately.

Iodine is a chemical element with symbol I and atomic number 53. The name is from Greek ioeides, meaning violet or purple, due to the color of elemental iodine vapor.

Iodine and its compounds are primarily used in nutrition, and industrially in the production of acetic acid and certain polymers. Iodine's relatively high atomic number, low toxicity, and ease of attachment to organic compounds have made it a part of many X-ray contrast materials in modern medicine. Iodine has only one stable isotope. A number of iodine radioisotopes are also used in medical applications.

Iodine is found on Earth mainly as the highly water-soluble iodide ion, I-, which concentrates it in oceans and brine pools. Like the other halogens, free iodine occurs mainly as a diatomic molecule I2, and then only momentarily after being oxidized from iodide by an oxidant like free oxygen. In the universe and on Earth, iodine's high atomic number makes it a relatively rare element. However, its presence in ocean water has given it a role in biology. It is the heaviest essential element utilized widely by life in biological functions (only tungsten, employed in enzymes by a few species of bacteria, is heavier). Iodine's rarity in many soils, due to initial low abundance as a crust-element, and also leaching of soluble iodide by rainwater, has led to many deficiency problems in land animals and inland human populations. Iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of intellectual disabilities.
Iodine is required by higher animals, which use it to synthesize thyroid hormones, which contain the element. Because of this function, radioisotopes of iodine are concentrated in the thyroid gland along with nonradioactive iodine. If inhaled, the radioisotope iodine-131, which has a high fission product yield, concentrates in the thyroid, but is easily remedied with non-radioactive potassium iodide treatment.