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Iodine (from Greek: iodes "violet"), is a chemical element that has the symbol "I" and atomic number 53. Chemically, iodine is the least reactive of the halogens, and the most electropositive halogen after astatine. Iodine is primarily used in medicine, photography and dyes. It is required in trace amounts by most living organisms.
As with all other halogens (members of Group VII in the Periodic Table), iodine forms diatomic molecules, and hence, has the molecular formula of I2.
In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regards iodine and compounds containing iodine (ionic iodides, iodoform, ethyl iodide, and so on) as reagents useful for the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine.
Persons who attempt to purchase significant quantities of such chemicals without establishing a legitimate use are likely to find themselves the target of a DEA investigation. Persons selling such compounds without doing due diligence to establish that the materials are not being diverted to clandestine use may be subject to stiff penalties, such as expensive fines or even imprisonment.
Iodine naturally occurs in the environment chiefly as dissolved iodide in seawater, although it is also found in some minerals and soils.
Although the element is actually quite rare, kelp and certain other plants have the ability to concentrate iodine, which helps introduce the element into the food chain.
Iodine is used in pharmaceuticals, antiseptics, medicine, food supplements, dyes, catalysts, halogen lights, photography and water purifying.
Iodine is a dark-gray/purple-black solid that sublimes at standard temperatures into a purple-pink gas that has an irritating odor. This halogen forms compounds with many elements, but is less active than the other members of its Group VII (halogens) and has some metallic-like properties.
It is only slightly soluble in water, giving a yellow solution.
Many students who have seen the classroom demonstration where iodine crystals are gently heated in a test tube come away with the impression that liquid iodine cannot exist at atmospheric pressure. This misconception arises because sublimation occurs without the intermediacy of liquid. The truth is that if iodine crystals are heated carefully to their melting point of 113.7 °C, the crystals will fuse into a liquid, which will be present under a dense blanket of the vapour.
Iodine was discovered by Bernard Courtois in 1811. He was born to a manufacturer of saltpeter (a vital part of gunpowder). At the time France was at war, saltpeter, a component of gunpowder, was in great demand. Saltpeter produced from French niter beds required sodium carbonate, which could be isolated from seaweed washed up on the coasts of Normandy and Brittany. To isolate the sodium carbonate, seaweed was burned and the ash then washed with water. The remaining waste was destroyed by adding sulfuric acid. One day Courtois added too much sulfuric acid and a cloud of purple vapor rose. Courtois noted that the vapor crystallized on cold surfaces making dark crystals. Courtois suspected that this was a new element but lacked the money to pursue his observations.
However he gave samples to his friends, Charles Bernard Desormes (1777 - 1862) and Nicolas Clément (1779 - 1841), to continue research. He also gave some of the substance to Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778 - 1850), a well-known chemist at that time, and to André-Marie Ampère (1775 - 1836). On 29 November 1813, Dersormes and Clément made public Courtois’ discovery. They described the substance to a meeting of the Imperial Institute of France. On December 6, Gay-Lussac announced that the new substance was either an element or a compound of oxygen. Ampère had given some of his sample to Humphry Davy (1778 - 1829). Davy did some experiments on the substance and noted its similarity to chlorine. Davy sent a letter dated December 10 to the Royal Society of London stating that he had identified a new element. A large argument erupted between Davy and Gay-Lussac over who identified iodine first but both scientists acknowledged Barnard Courtois as the first to isolate the chemical element.
The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends 150 micrograms of iodine per day for both men and women. This is necessary for proper production of thyroid hormone.
Natural sources of iodine include sea life, such as kelp and certain seafood, as well as plants grown on iodine-rich soil.
Salt for human consumption is often enriched with iodine and is referred to as iodized salt.
In areas where there is little iodine in the diet—typically remote inland areas and semi-arid equatorial climates where no marine foods are eaten—iodine deficiency gives rise to hypothyroidism, symptoms of which are extreme fatigue, goitre, mental slowing, depression, weight gain, and low basal body temperatures.
Iodine deficiency is also the leading cause of preventable mental retardation, an effect which happens primarily when babies and small children are made hypothyroid by lack of the element. The addition of iodine to table salt has largely eliminated this problem in the wealthier nations, but iodine deficiency remains a serious public health problem in the developing world.
Tincture of iodine (5% elemental iodine in water/ethanol base) is an essential component of any emergency survival kit, used both to disinfect wounds and to sanitize surface water for drinking (3 drops per litre, let stand for 30 minutes).
Alcohol-free iodine solutions such as Lugol's iodine, as well as other iodophor type antiseptics, are also available as effective elemental iodine sources for this purpose.
Iodine compounds are important in the field of organic chemistry
Iodine, as a heavy element, is quite radio-opaque.
Organic compounds of a certain type (typically iodine-substituted benzene derivatives) are thus used in medicine as X-ray radiocontrast agents for intravenous injection. This is often in conjunction with advanced X-ray techniques such as angiography and CT scanning
Silver iodide is used in photography.
Tungsten iodide is used to stabilize the filaments in light bulbs.
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