Iodine deficiency is a common, and serious problem that is pervasive throughout the world. Though it does exist in well-developed countries, it is most prevalent in developing the world. This paper will outline where iodine deficiency is a problem, what iodine deficiency is, how it affects the body, and ways to treat it.
According to (Best et al., 2010), Iodine deficiency is one of the most popular research studies of all micronutrient deficiencies. Iodine deficiency has been widely documented in the mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, South and Central America, and eastern Africa. Seeing how pervasive this problem is imposes some ethical implications.
With Iodine deficiency being such a repetitive problem, questions are raised about the government’s competency in the countries where it occurs. If there is a lack of government resources to resolve the issue, the people become neglected. Based on the principles of justice, each person should have equal rights and access according to their amount of need.
However, children, pregnant women, and adults are still suffering from iodine deficiency, justice for them has not been served, and the problem continues with each generation.Iodine deficiency occurs when the body does not have enough iodine intake. According to (Hailu et al., 2016), iodine deficiency can be caused by lack of iodine in the diet, soil, crops, and water. Living in areas where iodine does not occur naturally in soil, crops, water, or diet leaves more than 1.
5 billion people at risk of Iodine deficiency in the world today. In an ideal world following distributive justice, iodine deficiency would not exist because goods would be allocated and distributed equally and any inequalities would be addressed. However, this is not the case, and due to lapse in the distribution of iodized salt and supplements in areas with deficiencies. Because iodine deficiency exists, justice and equality do not exist, creating an ethical problem.Iodine is an element used by the body to create thyroid growth hormone. This hormone is used to help the body metabolize and help infants’ bones and brains grow. The standard for someone having Iodine deficiency is when their urinary iodine levels are below the 100 µg/L in children adults and 150 µg/L in pregnant women (Bath and Rayman, 2015). When we have a deficiency of iodine in the body, especially when pregnant or as a developing infant, problems can occur that will follow us into adulthood (Bath and Rayman, 2015).
Thyroid Goiter is one problem formed by iodine deficiency disorder. Goiter occurs when too much or too little of thyroid hormone is produced. Goiter is when the thyroid gland enlarges past the size intended, sometimes leaving a noticeable mass on the neck. Cretinism is another example of iodine deficiency where bone and brain growth is heavily inhibited by complications of thyroid hormone not being made. This often makes people affected physically and mentally stunted.Mental Retardation is one of the most common side effects of iodine deficiency.
Because iodine helps create thyroid hormones that contribute to brain development, when that hormone cannot be made, brain development suffers (Caulfield et al., 2006). Two different studies supported this claim of decreased cognitive function. The results of the study showed children’s intelligence quotients from the two iodine deficient locations.
Cognitively, the observed children were 12.5 and 13.5 points lower than children from iodine-sufficient regions (Best et al., 2010). While iodine deficiency brain damage is common, there may be ways to reverse its effects. Another study showed that mental performance could be improved through orally ingested iodized oil.
This study suggests that cognitive impairment from iodine deficiency can be recovered in school-aged children ( Best et al., 2010). The Principle of Beneficence is to do good and take positive steps towards mending a harmful problem affecting others. Now that we know that Iodine supplements can possibly help reverse the cognitively impaired, it would be unethical to ignore it. If we focus on helping distribute supplements, we can help them improve their cognition which can help them in school, which can help them build skills to survive in the developing world. Education is one step closer to enabling people in rural areas to live better lives and help build their society around them. We see stated in (Caulfield et al.
, 2006) that “The public health community has long recognized that iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental retardation” Research has shown that not only is iodine deficiency very preventable but in some ways can be slightly reversible.” (Anand et al., 2017) explains that the most damage from iodine deficiency happens from conception until the age of two, which is about the first 1000 days of development. When born, if the person survives stillbirth and possible congenital abnormalities, they can still face reduced growth, cognitive skills and development, and motor function (Anand et al., 2017). These conditions, however, have shown some signs of correction if treated according to (Caulfield et al.
, 2006).Iodized oil Injections , like previously mentioned, are one way that iodine can be administered. The benefit of having an injection is that the dosage can last up to 4 years. This form of relief has been used with success, but also has some immediate downfalls. The oil, while effective, can also put the people receiving it at risk if needles have been previously used. The spread of disease through needles is a danger that many administrators try to avoid but is still a possibility when using this method. Cost is also a concern with injecting oil.
A trained professional is needed to administer dosages, and overall this method of administration is more costly than other alternatives ranging from $.80 to $2.75 a person (Caulfield et al., 2006).
Orally administered Iodized oil and iodide tablets are also a successful way to counter the effects of iodine deficiency. The benefits of this form of the supplement have been linked to reduced mortality of infants, and the general benefits of having regular iodine levels. The cost per person can be as low as $0.
02 to $0.05 per dose (Cobra et al., 1997).
Iodized Salt is the most common way for the general populous to ingest iodine. This method of Iodine consumption is the cheapest and most widely used since salt is commonly used in food around the world. The largest problem found with this source of iodine is the utilization of salt. Some of the worst areas in the world where iodine deficiency occurs are places that have no access to iodized salt or have a lack of education on why iodine is important to incorporate into their diet. As we see in (Best et al.
, 2010), less than 10% of households consume iodized salt in Sudan, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. This can lead to Iodine deficiency disorders that would otherwise not exist if alternative forms of iodine are not present in those areas.Again, this reinforces the problem in rural areas and developing countries where there is a higher gap of education and access to nutrient filled food and water. Overall we see that even though iodine deficiency is well researched and studied, it is still a problem that many people face. This is a problem that can be fixed for just pennies a person, however due to lack of government aid, education, and natural existence of iodine in the diet, it is still pervasive, and damaging people every day. Iodine deficiency is unethical and is proven and supported by the ethical principles of beneficence, justice, and utilitarianism.
Beneficence for lack of action to make right when there is knowledge of a problem, justice for lack of equal access to fix this problem, and utilitarianism for having such a widespread, and easy to fix problem, still exist overlooking the even spread of resources to help the majority of people.