Monday, 23 April 2012

Iodine Deficiency in India is Alarming- The Times of India Reports- Bid to Eradicate IDD Points to BioLargo Opportunity

NEW DELHI: India has stepped up its efforts to stamp out the use of non-iodized salt. The Mission Steering Group (MSG) - the highest decision-making body of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) headed by Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad - passed a resolution on Monday to pay Rs 300 to each ASHA annually on testing of at least 50 salt samples per month for 303 iodine deficiency-endemic districts.

According to the health ministry, only 20 lakh metric tonnes of iodated salt in the country is being sold in packets. The rest is sold as loose salt. To make matters worse, even labeled salt packets have been found to be non-iodized.

Experts say iodine is one of the most essential micronutrients with an average daily requirement of 100-150 micrograms for normal human growth and development. At present, no state in the country is free from Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD).

Under the NRHM, each ASHA will be given 10-12 kits for a year. A drop of a special solution on the salt from a plastic vial brings about a colour change showing the presence of iodine. The intensity of colour change also indicates the level of iodine present in the salt. These kits will be highly useful in the field as they do not require any infrastructure and are inexpensive, sensitive and will provide immediate results.

The MSG meeting document says, "ASHA being from the same community/village would be very helpful in determining the quality of salt available in the village and will be in position to motivate the people to reject the use of non-iodated salt. She will report to the panchayats which will generate action to compel retail shops to sell iodated salt only. It is proposed that ASHA would be paid an honorarium of Rs 25 per month for testing at least 50 salt samples every month, which works out to 50 paisa per salt sample testing."

In India, 71 million people are suffering from IDD, which is the leading cause for mental retardation worldwide. Every year 13 million children are born in India unprotected from brain damage caused by iodine deficiency. It is estimated that 200 million population people in India are exposed to the risk of IDD.

The health ministry data says that out of 324 districts in all the 28 states, 263 districts are endemic, where the prevalence of IDD is more than 10%. Under the 12th Plan, India aims to bring down prevalence of IDD below 5% in the entire country. By 2017, the ministry wants to ensure 100% consumption of adequately iodated salt (15 PPM) at the household level.

The MSG said that according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-III), consumption of adequately iodated salt at the household level is only 51%. The consumption of adequately iodated salt at the household level in below poverty line and SC/ST population is about 30% and 40%, respectively. This indicates that the household of BPL and SC/ST population consuming nil/inadequate iodated salt as about 70% and 60%, respectively.

Iodometric titration, the traditional method for determining iodine content, is an accurate method, but it is time-consuming and requires infrastructure and trained personnel. In India, these laboratories are located at the state headquarters. Hence, the length of time between collecting the sample and the availability of results is considerably high.

"It is important that salt monitoring is carried out at community level so that the people themselves are in a position to demand iodized salt. This is all the more important for areas where loose salt is being used and labels cannot be an indication of iodations of salt. The scheme is expected to cost Rs. 12.27 crore per annum," MSG said.

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