GUANGZHOU: Governments at various levels are being urged to step up efforts to promote the consumption of iodine-enriched salt to combat iodine deficiencies in people.
Chen Jixiang, secretary-general of the China Endemic Diseases Society, made the comments on Saturday to promote Iodine Deficiency Prevention Day, which falls today.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, nine provinces and regions on the Chinese mainland did not meet targets for reducing iodine deficiencies by the end of last year, most of which are located in the less developed western regions including Qinghai and Yunnan provinces and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Surprisingly, Guangdong Province is also one of the nine.
People with iodine deficiencies are prone to suffer goitre, a swelling of the neck resulting from enlargement of the thyroid gland, which can also lead to learning disabilities.
Iodine deficiencies can also cause miscarriages in pregnant women.
"The cause of iodine deficiency is clear and easy to tackle," Chen said. "Consumption of iodized salt is the most effective way to address it."
To meet the targets, he explained, at least 90 per cent of the families in the regions need to consume qualified iodine-fortified salt, and the goitre rate among children aged between 8 and 10 should be below 10 per cent.
According to the ministry, China aims to cut the problem of iodine deficiency in 95 per cent of its counties. However, only 87 per cent of the counties monitored had met the targets for the consumption of qualified iodized salt by the end of last year.
Consumption of salt not fortified with iodine may be partly to blame for iodine deficiencies in people in Guangdong.
Only 76 per cent of the families in Guangdong were using qualified iodine-fortified salt last year, Chen said.
The median urinary iodine (MUI) level of tested children aged between 8 and 10 in the province stood at an average of 140 micrograms-per-litre (ug/L), lower than the 2002 provincial figure of 184ug/L and the 2005 national average of 246ug/L.
About 12.5 per cent of the children aged between 8 and 10 in the province had their MUI below 50ug/L, up from 5.9 per cent in 2002. If the MUI is below 100ug/L, a person is considered to be iodine deficient.
Salt not enriched with iodine, which is cheaper, is increasingly available in the province, Chen said.
The local government in Guangdong should strengthen its supervision over the salt market to scrap illegal production and distribution of poor-quality salt, he added.
(China Daily 05/15/2006 page3)