A doctor with babies in a neonatal care unit in Russia. Photo: Alexander Ryumin / TASS via Getty Images

Almost 19 million babies globally are at risk of developing brain damage each year due to a lack of sufficient iodine during pregnancy, The Guardian reports. In the first 1,000 days after conception, iodine deficiency can lead to neurological and psychological development difficulties.

Global context: Some countries are at risk of iodine deficiency problems throughout their populations because the mineral isn’t consistently available in the soil. And, while iodized salt is available to 86% of the world’s households, in Burundi, Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Sudan, and Sudan deficiency is prevalent.

  • “More broadly, widespread iodine deficiency can diminish the cognitive capital of entire nations, diminishing socio-economic progress, experts claim,” according to The Guardian’s Hannah Summers.
  • How soils lose iodine, per the World Health Organization's assessment of iodine deficiency disorders: "The erosion of soils in riverine areas due to loss of vegetation from clearing for agricultural production, overgrazing by livestock, and tree-cutting for firewood results in a continued and increasing loss of iodine from the soil."
  • In eastern and southern Africa, 3.9 million newborn babies are unprotected, per a UNICEF and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Gain) report. The rate of coverage is better in south Asia, but because of the high number of births, 4.3 million children are still at risk there.
  • Some western European countries, including the UK, are not implementing salt iodization well, according to a senior UNICEF advisor on nutrition, Roland Kupka.

The science: Iodine is needed to create thyroid hormones that aid brain development, per WHO.

Since the 1990s, one solution has been to increase accessibility of iodized salt, for instance, through edible salt tablets that contain sufficient amounts of the mineral.

  • The recommendation: To eat 5 grams of salt per day, and to make sure that all salt consumed is iodized. Iodine is contained in grains, eggs, and seafood.

Go deeper

Two officers shot in Louisville amid Breonna Taylor protests

Police officers stand guard during a protest in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Ben Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Louisville Metro Police Department said two officers were shot downtown in the Kentucky city late Wednesday, just hours after a grand jury announced an indictment in the Breonna Taylor case.

Details: A police spokesperson told a press briefing a suspect was in custody and that the injuries of both officers were not life-threatening. One officer was "alert and stable" and the other was undergoing surgery, he said.

Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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"Not enough": Protesters react to no murder charges in Breonna Taylor case

A grand jury on Wednesday indicted Brett Hankison, one of the Louisville police officers who entered Breonna Taylor's home in March, on three counts of wanton endangerment for firing shots blindly into neighboring apartments.

Details: Angering protesters, the grand jury did not indict any of the three officers involved in the botched drug raid on homicide or manslaughter charges related to the death of Taylor.

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