Experts respond to links between desalinated water and iodine deficiency

Sept. 21, 2016
A lack of naturally occurring iodine in desalinated water could lead to thyroid gland diseases, research from the Hebrew University (HU) of Jerusalem has said...

TEL AVIV, Israel – A lack of naturally occurring iodine in desalinated water could lead to thyroid gland diseases, research from the Hebrew University (HU) of Jerusalem has said.

Dr. Aron Troen from HU’s institute of biochemistry, food science and nutrition led a study that assessed the connection between iodine intake and thyroid function in a region where drinking water is supplied from desalinated water.

Troen reportedly found a high level of insufficient iodine intake and strong thyroid dysfunction among adults, according to the Jerusalem post.

He was reported as saying: “There is no doubt that desalination is a blessing. However, we need to be mindful of unintended consequences. Desalination removes minerals from the water and could conceivably diminish intake of minerals such as iodine that serve as essential micro-nutrients.”

Dr Troen added that: “any problems with iodine nutrition that might emerge from desalination can be easily and inexpensively remedied by the iodization of table salt. Although this has been implemented for many years in the US and other countries, the Health Ministry has not adopted the practice.”

Iodine is a halogen element in the same series as fluorine, chlorine and bromine.

Total dietary iodine intake is important to protect thyroid health and against indirect risks, such as exposure to perchlorate and other anions like chlorate, thiocyanate and even bromide and nitrate.

Drinking water is not usually considered a conventional source of iodine. It can be found in dairy, seafood and some algae with other grains and food sources dependent on iodine levels in the soil in which they are grown.

Iodized table salt was introduced in the US in 1924, which helped to reduce the risk of goiter (hypothyroidism).

In the same region, the recommended daily intake of iodine ranges from 100 to 150 micrograms per day (µg/day) for young children to adults, 220 µg/day during pregnancy and 290 µg/day during lactation.

Responding to the study claims, Leon Awerbuch, Dean of the Academy at the International Desalination Association (IDA), told WWi: “It will be important to know if insufficient iodine from permeate of reverse osmosis or distillation can cause health problem which the study suggested. At the end they point out that the problem can be easily solved by iodine in salt.

“Although IDA participated in WHO study on guidelines for desalination products at the time I do not recall raising an issue of iodine. Clearly we talked about balancing magnesium, which in Israel was considered.”

It’s estimated that 300 million people globally rely on 17,000 desalination plants in 150 countries for water.

Dr Joseph Cotruvo, president of Joseph Cotruvo & Associates and former director of the EPA Drinking Water Standards Division asks how much iodine was in the natural water that the desalination process replaced?

Speaking to WWi, he said: “Drinking water is not usually a significant dietary source of dietary iodine consumption. So, the important thing is that the population has sufficient total exposure to iodine, and especially pregnant women and children of childbearing age, because iodine deficiency can cause serious permanent neurological problems in the children. Seafood and dairy consumption are good sources of dietary iodine.”

Cotruvo added: “Old hypochlorite can contribute both chlorate and perchlorate to water so that is worth noting. Old hypochlorite that has been stored under warm conditions can spontaneously produce substantial amounts of chlorate and perchlorate. Desalinaters and other water producers should be sure to use fresh hypochlorite stored under cool conditions out of sunlight. Gaseous chlorine is not a producer of chlorate and hypochlorite."

The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli Health Ministry director general, Prof. Itamar Grotto as saying: “The HU research is not based enough on facts. We too do similar studies. At this point, there is not enough evidence that in Israel salt should be fortified with iodine. Every country in the world has different conditions.”


Read more

IDE’s Israel seawater RO desalination plant sets world record for water production

Sorek Stands Tall