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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

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Louisiana officials find "probable" Omicron case in cruise ship COVID outbreak — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy.
  4. World: U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 1 hour ago - Health

NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Monday announced a new COVID vaccine mandate for all private companies.

Why it matters: De Blasio, speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said the "first-in-the-nation measure" will go into effect starting Dec. 27. It will apply to approximately 184,000 businesses.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

A big part of America's supply chain is for sale

Illustration: Allie Carl, Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's supply chain crisis is a series of intersecting bottlenecks, including insufficient labor and warehouse space, all driven by surging U.S. consumer behavior. But one piece has gotten short-shift on the attention meter: Chassis, the steel frames on which trucks carry shipping containers.

Driving the news: Apollo Global Management is seeking a buyer for Direct ChassisLink, the largest U.S. intermodal chassis provider, as first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Axios.