Saturday, 18 April 2015

Is Iodine essential or harmful to the body

Discovery of Iodine
Iodine is an element with the symbol “I” and atomic number 53. It is a trace element, which means that it is found in small amounts in a sample or in the environment. Although land plants such as cranberries are a good source of iodine, the ocean houses the highest amount of foods containing iodine. Iodine was discovered by the French chemist Bernard Courtois in 1811 while extracting sodium and potassium compounds from seaweed ash. He added sulfuric acid (H2SO4) to further process the ash but accidentally added too much thus, producing a violet colored gas. This gas condensed on metal objects in the room, creating solid iodine. Courtois was trying to manufacture gunpowder for Napoleon’s army when he discovered iodine. Within a few years, Humphrey Davy, an English chemist proved that the substance Courtois had discovered belonged to the halogen family and named it iodine.

How Iodine was found to be a cure for goiter
 Goiter, as seen in the image above, is a swelling of the neck or larynx resulting from the enlargement of the thyroid gland. This enlargement might be due to insufficient amounts of iodine (hypothyroidism) or excess secretion of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Ancient art and science tells us that goiters have existed for centuries and was believed to be a result of drinking dirty water.
The ancient Chinese were probably the first people to successfully treat goiters when they realized that large doses of seaweed and burnt sponge managed the swellings very well.  They also treated their patients using dried thyroid glands of animals such as sheep and pigs although they didn’t understand how these things were able to cure their patients. A Swiss-German physician by the name Paracelsus was the first person to point out that there was a correlation between goiters and lack of minerals, although he thought that this missing mineral was iron sulphide. It wasn’t until 1821 when the Swiss doctor Jean Coindet reasoned that the newly discovered iodine could be the ingredient behind the seaweed and animal thyroid gland’s cure of goiter.

Uses of Iodine
Iodine is used in iodized salts as a means of preventing goiter.
It can be used to treat and enlarged thyroid if the goiter is due to lack of iodine
It is used as an ingredient in disinfectants that may be added to swimming pools and drinking water.
It is also an ingredient in antiseptics and germicides.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iodine is 150 micrograms. Exposure to high amounts could have terrible effects on an individual. Short-term exposure to high amounts of iodine may cause burning of mouth and throat, vomiting and abdominal pain whereas long-term exposure may result in progression of symptoms to fever, shock and even death.


Baker (2004)D.H. BakerIodine toxicity and its amelioration, Experimental Biology and Medicine (Maywood, N.J.), 229 (2004), pp. 473–478
Iodine. (2015). In The Columbia Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Retrieved from
Martinez, A. H., Perez, E. J., & Ebrary Academic Complete (Canada) Subscription Collection. (2012). Iodine: Characteristics, sources, and health implications. New York: Nova Biomedical Books.
Rosenhek, J. (2008, May 7). Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move. Retrieved April 16, 2015, from
United States. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, & Corporation, S. R. (2004). Toxicological profile for iodine

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