Background | Name | Sources | Uses | Substitutes and Alternative Sources Background
Iodine is a shiny blue-black solid element. Its atomic number is 53 and it is grouped with other elements that, together, are called the halogens, although iodine is the least reactive of the elements in this group. The French scientist Bernard Courtois discovered it in 1811 when he treated seaweed ash with sulfuric acid.
When iodine is heated, it sublimates, that is, it goes from a solid to a vapor without going through the liquid phase.
Iodine is essential to many life forms, including humans, and is found in thyroid hormones. A lack of iodine in the body will result in a condition known as a goiter where the thyroid gland in the neck becomes enlarged. In order to assure an adequate amount of iodine in the diet, table salt is iodized. This approach has greatly reduced the incidence of goiter since so many people regularly use table salt.