CAN GOITRE BE TREATED THROUGH THE WATER SUPPLY?
Variations in Tendency to the Disease —What Will Be the Result of Devitalizing Soil?-Is Water Treatment Practical?
IN the following article Mr. Crowley makes no claim to a scientific knowledge of the subject of Goitre from the standpoint of the water supply, but treats it from the viewpoint of the layman. Nevertheless his article is well thought out and his ideas bear the stamp of originality.
The North has its problems as well as the South. The chart with significant black band across the north half of the United States from the Pacific to the Atlantic, used by Dr. J. F. McClendon and Dr. Taliaferro Clark of the U. S. Public Health Service, used in lectures to show iodine deficiencies in water, and apparently confirmed by reports of various State Health Departments, and investigations of many private physicians and expert nurses, examining school children, seem to justify the question: Is Goitre a National Menace?
Knowledge of the condition and search for the full cause and remedy would seem to be more important to the people in a National sense, than most of the material receiving page after page of publicity. The complete solution should entitle the discoverer to the Nobel prize. The splendid men devoting their talents to the subject should have greater support from their fellow scientists when its great importance is once appreciated.
Surely a scientific age able to divide and subdivide the atom and the molecule should not be baffled by this increasing age old primary problem. To avoid stampeding Water Departments before attempting remedial measures they are surely entitled to the best information obtainable.
A “Condition and Not a Theory”
To quote the late President Cleveland: “It is a condition and not a theory” which confronts our people, and in the absence of complete information as to the primary complete cause it may be necessary to make use of the best alleviation method so far developed, when backed by the medical profession, but only pending full solution.
The lectures of specialists and literature on the subject within easy reach show wide variations in iodine contents in the same stream, and in interior locations even in the same county within a few miles. On the Mississippi, Minneapolis and St. Paul would index about 20, St. Louis 80, New Orleans 770, which naturally raises the question—what modifiers enter the stream from North to South to cause such a contrast. Both cities now take water from the same river. Can it be that the waste sewerage sent down to the Gulf carries such a valuable element? Is the Delta of the Mississippi enriched so much by the allevial soil carried from the North?
Some students believe the lower part of the United States to have been an ocean bed longer than the Northern Section and that the ocean deposits modify the water percolating through it to the tributaries. It is believed also that ocean spray and clouds carry their iodine inland some distance and that artificially fertilized soil is another contributor.
Variations in Tendency to Goitre
The line of the stream is largely peopled by the same race, drinking the same water, and except in the extreme South, largely using the same foods. Under the same conditions some children in a family show goitre tendency,—others are free, and girls showing a greater per cent than boys. Again, in boys the condition has a tendency to disappear after 16 or 17, in girls the tendency is to increase at the same age.
If substantiated, and they can hardly be doubted, the above facts show to the lay mind how complex the question becomes. It may be that the goitre problem is related in some degree to a modern tendency to general glandular deficiency and that its solution may throw light on the others, and relief as well. Nevertheless, the trouble is here—what shall we do about it?
What Will Be Result of Devitalizing Soil?
Not having a professional reputation at stake, the layman can “Roam far afield” and advance more theories and speculative questions than a scientist can answer in a lifetime. The point raised in my mind is this: The All Wise Creator gave the earth and the fullness thereof to the children of men. He so contrived our natural food that all the secrets and elements thereof were so proportioned and assembled that man’s full sustenance was assured. He endowed man with Godlike intelligence suited to his earthly environment, and no doubt ability to discover the secrets of nature so far as it is necessary to adapt them to his welfare and the Creator’s glory. Is the ability to improve on the natural foods, that is, to eliminate, reconstruct or recombine them in other forms a part of that endowment? Has man in refining and altering natural foods to make them more attractive to the eye and the palate improved on nature’s blendings, or has he in the process eliminated subtle elements necessary to the proper functioning of the human economy? Where he has combined without destroying one might answer—“yes” as to some things—“no” as to others. Has he not steadily reduced the fertility of the soil and soil elements that go with it. thus robbing the waters also? Has he not reversed the natural order of things by pouring into sewers and streams to dissipate them in the oceans or other waters the vital elements that should go back to replenish the soil and contribute to the water its proper contents?
In brief, arc we now obliged to attempt to put back into the water in artificial form the very elements which have been taken from the earth or its products in a perfectly assembled form? If so, what will be the ultimate result of this policy of deforesting, draining, robbing the soil, and devitalizing the foods, etc., on the next generation?
It has been proven that the bran shorts and middlings of wheat are removed to make white flour, and this white product bleached to make it still whiter. Polished rice as a diet produces beri-beri until the .unsightly black cover or bran is restored, when the disease is overcome. Years ago the oatmeal retained a portion of the hull with a slightly bitter flavor, which we missed when rolled or polished oats took its place, and so with other cereal foods. This refuse material of cereals in a processed form, and perhaps devitalized in the process, is now commercialized in various forms and offered to consumers to make up the deficit in the artistic white flour and other foods. The old vegetable cellar has disappeared in most of the modern homes and canned vegetables take their place—with what loss we do not know.
Natural sugar has disappeared and is replaced by a product treated with sulphuric acid to whiten it, then used on our fruit preserves with unknown results. Is it not possible that these practices are an element in producing iodine and other gland deficiency or at least increasing it so that our water is not the only cause. The question would seem to deserve the attention of the best minds of the country.
Effects of Iodine Treatment of Children
The goitre gland being only one of many in the human system which should operate in harmony, may it not be possible that the iodine treatment combining with other elusive elements in these glands, produces the necessary stimulus to cause all the function on the brain and human system? Some such results, in exceptional cases in school children, seem to indicate as much. The layman having the temerity to discuss these questions easily gets into deep water, as does the specialist. I therefore hope I may be wrong, but fear I may be right.
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Trealing Goitre Through Water Supply
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Reports showing improved mental reactions after iodine treatment of children, naturally suggests that the discouraging reports of tests on army recruits during the war. may have been due, in some cases, to iodine deficiency in the subject tested. It would seem to deserve attention if not already considered by experts. I have a strong suspicion that it may show important results.
This article therefore must be accepted as an evidence of a layman’s good intentions on humane lines—not a technical contribution. The investigations now going on and to continue by well equipped and devoted men will. I hope, show the values in true proportion. I am told that in some forms of goitre excess iodine is at least not advisable and perhaps dangerous. Is nature going back on us, or are we going back to nature?
Much Iodine Contained in Some Foods
Dr. McClendon’s investigations, however, show that some foods contain much more iodine than man could possibly consume in a semi-annual three weeks use of water treatment even if he had the capacity of an elephant. The danger of sufferers doping with increased quantities, and for prolonged periods would possibly remain, but that would hardly be greater than such action without water treatment. In any event it would seem wise to first show the public the extent of the disease before attempting to obtain its support for water treatment; rather than proposing treatment before the people are ready to accept its necessity. Until doctors agree who is to decide? Removal of dangerous matter from water may be legal obligation. Medication raises another question. We are admonished to “drink deep or touch not the empyrean spring for a little learning is a dangerous thing.” Davy Crockett’s advice would seem to indicate the safe line of action, “Be sure you are right, then go ahead.”
Will the softening of water, under accepted treatments of today, without other medication, be helpful in lessening the goitre problem?
Are we heading toward a hairless, glandless and toothless age? Then what about the supremacy of the proud white race? Will it finally succumb to a lower type, living closer to a natural order in nature? Is the white man approaching a climax in the boasted evolutionary cycle?
The V olstead act having cut off all other source of exhilaration, am I suffering from an overdose of iodine? The first water works official to give a complete and satisfactory answer to all these problems will go to the head of the class.