Less iodine lowers IQs

MORE THAN one-third of China's population suffers from iodine deficiency and two provinces, Xinjiang and Jiangxi, are the worst hit. Five million Chinese are said to be mentally retarded and children with less than normal IQ are reported to number 8-18 million and increasing by one million every year.

Iodine deficiency, which leads to goitre, can be overcome by iodising table salt. But some salt manufacturers are reportedly seeking to escape taxes and make illicit profits by marketing industrial rock salt as iodised salt.

Three agencies -- the UN Development Programme, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation are exploring how best they can help to solve this growing problem.