The workshop highlighted a review study by a team of researchers from the Indian Coalition for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
"Thirteen million out of a total of 26 million children born in India every year are unprotected against iodine deficiency disorders such as brain damage, and have severely depleted levels of productivity," said Chandrakant S. Pandav, ICCIDD regional coordinator, South Asia.
"The irreversible situation of brain damage in children could be prevented in advance only by iodising the salt taken by pregnant mothers as 90 percent of human brain development occurs between the third month of pregnancy to third year of life," he added.
In order to determine the iodine intake in pregnant women, the review study was conducted in different parts of India, namely in the states of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Five out of the nine studies were community based while four studies were hospital based. Three out of nine studies were done in rural areas and the remaining six were done in urban and urban slum areas.
According to these studies, a significant iodine deficiency in pregnant women in India was detected."It is important to note that it is not at all recommended that one should increase the intake of salt. Only increase intake of iodine. Iodine levels in salt can be adjusted without increasing the salt consumption," Pandav said.
M.G. Karmarkar, senior advisor of ICCIDD and former professor and head of the department of laboratory medicines at AIIMS, said: "Although it is mandatory to iodize all salt meant for human consumption and the private sector has been permitted to produce iodized salt since 1983, only 51 percent of the households consume iodine in the country. The cost to iodize salt is very negligible at five paise per person per year."
The two-day workshop will culminate Friday and is being held at Vigyan Bhavan.