The Union health ministry has upped its fight against mental retardation by increasing iodised salt production and promoting its consumption, concerned with iodine deficiency affecting over 10 per cent of the population in 263 districts.
The government is promoting iodine consumption by arming Ashas (Accredited Social Health Activists) with testing kits to identify non-iodised salt still being sold in some parts of the country.
The Centre banned the sale of non-iodised salt in May 2006, but low production and poor implementation of the ban has led to widespread iodine deficiency disorders, which are the most common cause of preventable mental retardation and cretinism in India.
About 150 micrograms of this essential micronutrient is needed for normal growth and development.
No Indian state or Union territory is free from iodine deficiency disorders, showed a survey of 324 districts across 28 states and 7 Union territories.
The aim is to bring the prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders below 10 per cent of the population by 2012.
"Work has already begun to met the target. The annual production and supply of iodated salt has been raised from 5 lakh metric tones in 1985-86 to 54 lakh metric tones in 2009-10," said a Union health ministry official.
A national reference laboratory for monitoring deficiency disorders has been set up at the Delhi-based National Centres for Disease Control.