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Scientists Initiate Mandatory Salt Iodization in Ukraine

© UNICEF Ukraine 2010. O.Trush
Vice-president of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

The scientists call for legislative approval of mandatory iodization of table salt in Ukraine in order to avoid the main consequence of iodine deficiency — degradation of mental abilities of the population. Relevant draft law has been submitted to Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and to Serhiy Ryzhenko, Chief Sanitary Inspector of Ukraine.

This statement was made by Yuriy Kundiyev, vice-president of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine (AMS), who voiced views and position of AMS and the number of AMS member institutes working in the areas of health care and biology.

Professor Kundiyev recalled that the global medical science, relying on rich evidence, has identified iodine deficiency as the main reason for mental retardation and irreversible brain damages. The scientists have also traced interrelation between the intellectual level of the population and living standards in the country.

“With the level of iodine deficiency that we have in Ukraine, 32.5 thousand mentally retarded children are born annually. And in the future these 32.5 thousand children will become a burden for the society instead of being worthy addition to our GDP. We are losing our nation’s gene pool, we are losing our scientific and intellectual potential”, the academician explained.

According to him, putting an end to mass degradation should be a top priority for entire society, and above all – for the state.

“And now we face the question: why haven’t we still done this simple thing as it has already been done by 102 countries – even countries with less acute iodine deficiency situation as compared to Ukraine? 102 countries of the world fortify salt with iodine!” – emphasized Yuriy Kundiyev. “What do we want to have - an ark of fools, or smart country striving towards the development and achievements based on knowledge and science?»
The academician pointed to the fact that iodized salt is absolutely affordable for all groups of population, and its effectiveness and safety has been proven by the global experience.

“Why salt? Well, because everyone consumes salt. Second, the dosage would be precise since you never eat more salt than necessary”, he said and added that no other iodized food products or iodine-based medications are capable of ensuring mass prevention of iodine deficiency disorders.

At the same time Professor Kundiyev noted that non-iodized salt may also be available – though in limited quantities – to those with medical contraindications, e.g. allergic towards iodine (1-2% of the population), and may be offered by pharmacies.

According to proposed draft law, salt, used for manufacturing of food products (excluding technologies that require the use of non-iodized salt), as well as fodder salt (excluding lump salt and salt blocks), shall be subject to iodization. According to the draft law, sales of iodized table salt shall be made mandatory for all subjects of retail trade, while retail price for iodized salt should not exceed retail price of non-iodized salt. It is also suggested to cover all iodization-related expenditures of salt manufacturers via the preferential taxation mechanisms, which should be developed by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.

The urgent necessity of mass introduction of iodized salt to eliminate iodine deficiency in Ukraine was actively discussed and confirmed by the participants of international workshop, organized within the framework of the Fourth National Competition on Bioethics in Kyiv. The number of studies, conducted in 2007–2009 by medical scientists and experts of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, has confirmed that regions with pronounced iodine deficiency already lack children with above-average intellectual capacity; moreover, there are a lot of children with low and very low levels of intellect.

Strategy for ilimination of iodone deficiency in Belarus

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Editors note: Ukraine is located in the zone of natural iodine deficiency. It is preconditioned by low iodine content in soil and water and consequently – in locally produced food products, including plants, meat and milk of animals fed on these plants. Currently iodine deficiency affects at least 73% of Ukrainian population.

Daily deficit of several dozen micrograms of iodine in nutrition may lead to irreversible developmental disorders and malfunction of human organism. Iodine deficiency is particularly dangerous for mental and intellectual abilities and consequently – for person’s success in life.

In conditions of iodine deficiency the number cases of mental retardation in the general population doubles, while the rate of intellectual may drop by 10-15 points.

Even light iodine deficiency in a pregnant woman hampers the development of baby’s genetically inherent intellectual potential. Serious iodine deficiency in pregnant women may lead to births of babies with cretinism.
If current situation persists, Ukraine will have to open one or two school annually for children with reduced mental development. Intellectual potential that Ukraine already loses annually to iodine deficiency, would be enough to bring up 3,000 geniuses.

At the same time, it is incredibly easy to avoid these problems: we just need to consume iodized salt instead of the regular one.

Switzerland as we know it is one of the most developed countries of the world and tenth country on the planet in terms of population’s average IQ level. However, about a century ago mental retardation as a result of natural iodine deficiency was the norm for Swiss: up to 90% of residents in some cantons were mentally retarded.

Elimination of the natural iodine deficiency by means of mass use of iodized salt was the vehicle of the country’s development. Current maps of sustained absence of iodine deficiency and high levels of country’s development coincide.

About UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 190 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. UNICEF opened its office in Kyiv in 1997.

For further information please contact: Olena Trush, Nutrition Officer, UNICEF Ukraine, tel:  + 38.044.254.2450, e-mail: otrush@unicef.org

 

 
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