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Excessive iodine intake can cause thyroid function disorders as can be caused by iodine deficiency. There are many people residing in areas with high iodine levels in drinking-water in China. The main aim of the present study was to map the geographical distribution of drinking-water with high iodine level in China and to determine the relationship between high iodine level in drinking-water and goitre prevalence. Iodine in drinking-water was measured in 1978 towns of eleven provinces in China, with a total of 28 857 water samples. We randomly selected children of 8–10 years old, examined the presence of goitre and measured their urinary iodine in 299 towns of nine provinces. Of the 1978 towns studied, 488 had iodine levels between 150 and 300 μg/l in drinking-water, and in 246 towns, the iodine level was >300 μg/l. These towns are mainly distributed along the original Yellow River flood areas, the second largest river in China. Of the 56 751 children examined, goitre prevalence was 6·3 % in the areas with drinking-water iodine levels of 150–300 μg/l and 11·0 % in the areas with drinking-water iodine >300 μg/l. Goitre prevalence increased with water and urinary iodine levels. For children with urinary iodine >1500 μg/l, goitre prevalence was 3·69 times higher than that for those with urinary iodine levels of 100–199 μg/l. The present study suggests that drinking-water with high iodine levels is distributed in eleven provinces of China. Goitre becomes more prevalent with the increase in iodine level in drinking-water. Therefore, it becomes important to prevent goitre through stopping the provision of iodised salt and providing normal drinking-water iodine through pipelines in these areas in China.
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