Medical science since has identified a far more serious threat than the cosmetic problem of goiter -- mental retardation. In October 2007, the American Thyroid Association hosted a symposium with valuable current information and capturing the excitement of the progress; it was entitled "A public health triumph in the making." UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam delivered a stirring charge to delegates that captured not only the moral imperative of universal salt iodization, but included an outstanding historical review of the entire issue. Gautam told delegates:
"IDD is the single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation. Severe deficiencies cause cretinism, stillbirth and miscarriage. But even mild deficiency can significantly affect the learning ability of populations. Scientific evidence shows alarming effects of IDD. Even a moderate deficiency, especially in pregnant women and infants, lowers their intelligence by 10 to 15 IQ points, with incalculable damage to social and economic development of nations and communities. Today over 1 billion people in the world suffer from iodine deficiency, and 38 million babies born every year are not protected from brain damage due to IDD. These 38 millions, or nearly 30 percent of the world’s newborns, come from families that are the least educated, most isolated and economically disadvantaged. The mark of a civilized society is how well it takes care of its most vulnerable and deprived communities. If we continue to fail to reach these newborns, we will be consigning them to an inter-generational cycle of poverty and injustice."
In the United States, salt producers cooperated with public health authorities and made both iodized and plain salt available to consumers at the same cost. Newspapers urged people to use iodized salt for the prevention of iodine deficiency. The Michigan program was highly successful and iodized salt use quickly spread throughout the country. Ultimately, household use of iodized salt eliminated iodine deficiency in the North America. In 1955, researchers reported that 75.8% of U.S. households used only iodized salt. The Salt Institute estimates that nearly 70% of the table salt sold in the United States is iodized. Virtually none of the salt used in processed foods is iodized, however, so the transformation of eating practices in the U.S. and many other countries, substituting meals prepared outside the homes using plain salt for home-cooked foods containing iodized salt, has led to an erosion of iodine in the U.S. diet. Canada, Australia/New Zealand and much of western Europe long ago addressed the need to ensure availability of iodized salt.