BACKGROUND: Iodine deficiency and endemic goiter have been reported in the past in The Netherlands, especially in the southeast. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate iodine intake and thyroid size in Dutch schoolchildren, contrasting those living in a formerly iodine-deficient region in the east (Doetinchem) with those living in an iodine-sufficient region in the west (Amsterdam area). DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey of 937 Dutch schoolchildren aged 6--18 years, of whom 390 lived in the eastern and 547 in the western part of the country. METHODS: Thyroid size was assessed by inspection and palpation as well as by ultrasound. Iodine intake was evaluated by questionnaires on dietary habits and by measurement of urinary iodine concentration. RESULTS: Eastern and western regions were similar with respect to median urinary iodine concentration (15.7 and 15.3 microg/dl, NS, Mann-Whitney U test), goiter prevalence by inspection and palpation (0.8 and 2.6%, P=0.08, chi-squared test), and thyroid volumes. The P97.5 values of thyroid volumes per age and body surface area group were all lower than the corresponding sex-specific normative WHO reference values. Iodized salt was not used by 45.7% of households. Daily bread consumption was five slices by boys and four slices by girls. Weekly milk consumption was 3 liters by boys and 2 liters by girls. Seafish was consumed once monthly. From these figures we calculated a mean daily iodine intake of 171 microg in boys and 143 microg in girls, in good agreement with the measured median urinary concentration of 16.7 microg/dl in boys and 14.5 microg/dl in girls. The sex difference in iodine excretion is fully accounted for by an extra daily consumption of one slice of bread (20 microg I) and one-seventh of a liter of milk (8.3 microg I) by boys. Thyroid volume increases with age, but a steep increase by 41% was observed in girls between 11 and 12 years, and by 55% in boys between 13 and 14 years, coinciding with peak height velocity. Girls have a larger thyroid volume at the ages of 12 and 13 years, but thyroid volume is larger in boys as of the age of 14 years. CONCLUSIONS: (1) Iodine deficiency disorders no longer exist in The Netherlands. (2) Bread consumption remains the main source of dietary iodine in The Netherlands; the contribution of iodized table salt and seafish is limited. (3) The earlier onset of puberty in girls renders their thyroid volume larger than in boys at the age of 12--13 years, but boys have a larger thyroid volume as of the age of 14 years.