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In areas where there is little iodine in the diet—typically remote inland areas and semi-arid equatorial climates where no marine foods are eaten—iodine deficiency gives rise to goiter, so called endemic goiter. In some such areas, this is now combatted by the addition of small amounts of iodine to table salt in form of sodium iodide, potassium iodide, potassium iodate—this product is known as iodized salt. Iodine compounds have also been added to other foodstuffs, such as flour, in areas of deficiency. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation. This is caused by lack of thyroid hormone in the infant. Iodine deficiency remains a serious problem that affects people around the globe. Other uses:
One of the halogens, it is an essential trace element; the thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine contain iodine.
Tincture of iodine (3% elemental iodine in water/ethanol base) is an essential component of any emergency survival kit, used both to disinfect wounds and to sanitize surface water for drinking (3 drops per liter, let stand for 30 minutes)
Iodine compounds are important in the field of organic chemistry and are very useful in medicine.
Silver iodide is used in photography.
Potassium iodide (KI) tablets or liquid drops can be given to people in a nuclear disaster area when fission has taken place, to flush out the radioactive iodine-131 fission product. The half-life of iodine-131 is only eight days, so the treatment would need to continue only a couple of weeks. In cases of leakage of nuclear materials without fission, or a dirty bomb, this precaution would be of no avail.
Tungsten iodide is used to stabilize the filaments in light bulbs.
Nitrogen triiodide is an explosive, too unstable to be used commercially, but is commonly used in college pranks.
Iodine-123 and iodine-125 are used in medicine as tracers for imaging and evaluating the function of the thyroid.
Iodine-131 is used in medicine for treatment of thyroid cancer and Grave's disease.
Uncombined (elemental) iodine is mildly toxic to all living things.