Case-study: Selenium in Finland
Low levels of selenium (Se) have been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer in humans. In Finland, the soil is particularly poor in Selenium and the Finns have been deficient in Selenium.
In 1984, the Finnish government decided to implement selenium supplementation through fertilizers to increase the very low concentration of selenium in the nation's food chain.The National Public Health Institute has been monitoring the blood selenium levels of the Finnish adult population since the 1970's. Before the selenium supplementation of fertilizers was begun, the Finns' intake of selenium was very low, and the average blood selenium levels were among the lowest in the world. Thanks to the selenium supplementation of fertilizers, the selenium levels of Finnish foods have clearly risen, which has respectively enhanced the blood selenium levels of the population.
The Finnish practice of selenium fertilization is unique in the world. The amount of selenium that is added to fertilizers has been adjusted twice on the basis of research results and regular monitoring.
Nowadays, the amount of selenium added to fertilizers is 10 milligrams per kilogram.
As a result, the selenium concentration of Finnish foods became one of the highest in Europe. Supplementation of fertilizer with Se has also made it possible to increase the Se intake of livestock.
In New-Zealand and some mountainous regions of China, the amounts of Selenium is soils are also scarce.