Iodine Deficiency in Australian Children

20 February 2006

A national study of Australian schoolchildren aged 8-10 years has found that there is an inadequate iodine intake in the Australian population, leading to a call by the study’s authors for mandatory iodisation of all edible salt in Australia.

Another disturbing finding of the study by University of Sydney experts was a marginal increase in thyroid volumes in Australian schoolchildren when compared to international data from iodine sufficient countries.

The results of the Australian National Iodine Nutrition Study are reported in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia by Professor Creswell J Eastman, Chairman of the Australian Centre for Control of Iodine Deficiency Diseases, Dr Mu Li, a senior researcher of the Centre and Senior Lecturer at the School of Public Health, University of Sydney, and their colleagues around Australia.

Between July 2003 and December 2004, 1709 students from 88 schools in mainland Australia were surveyed to document the population iodine nutritional status in Australian schoolchildren.  Environmental iodine deficiency causes a wide spectrum of devastating mental and physical disorders, collectively described as iodine deficiency disorders, with endemic goitre the most visible and well known.

Dr Li says the decline in iodine intake in Australia is due to two major factors – the change from iodine-containing sanitisers in the dairy industry to chlorine-containing or other acid-based sanitisers; and the low consumption of iodised salt – with the latter the easiest to remedy.

“Mainland children as a group are borderline iodine deficient, but there are significant and unexpected variations across the continent,” Dr Li says.

“Western Australian and Queensland children are iodine replete and Victorian and NSW children are mildly iodine deficient, with the differences linked to variations in ingestion of iodised salt, in regional milk iodine content, and drinking water iodine levels. We are investigating these possibilities further.

“Although we found an increase in thyroid volumes compared with international data, we are not able to conclude that iodine deficiency is causing endemic goitre in Australia.

“It is alarming that many Australian schoolchildren have mild iodine deficiency and no action has been taken by public health authorities to increase iodine intake in our population,” Dr Li says.


Dr Mu Li, 0432 816 386 or 02 9351 5996
Prof Creswell Eastman 0418 975 472 
Andrew Potter, Media Office, 02 9351 4514, 0414 998 521