Iron is part of the make-up of hemoglobin and myoglobin (“heme”, as in blood; “myo”, as in muscle). These substances have the remarkable ability to grab onto or release oxygen and carbon dioxide at the right times and places. Anemia from iron deficiency is aptly called “iron-deficiency anemia”, resulting in pallor and weakness. The anemia of children is due to either some subtle form of blood loss or inadequate intake of iron, either in elemental form or organic form. A simple look at red blood cells is diagnostic for iron-deficiency anemia. A little red meat and many vegetable sources, and the amount in a typical multivitamin/mineral preparation, do a good job of prevention. Giving vitamin C along with iron can enhance the correction of iron-deficiency anemia.
Minerals, which are chemically and nutritionally different from vitamins, have an excellent safety record, but not quite as good as vitamins. On the average, one or two fatalities per year are typically attributed to iron poisoning from gross overdosing on supplemental iron. Deaths attributed to other supplemental minerals are extremely rare. Even iron, although not as safe as vitamins, accounts for fewer deaths than do laundry and dishwashing detergents. Do not allow your child unfettered access to multivitamins containing iron (most iron-containing supplements have child-resistant caps as well). The amount of iron in multivitamins, even when taken twice daily, is fine. There were zero deaths in 2008-2009 from any mineral supplement, according to the U.S. National Poison Data System. This means there were no fatalities from calcium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, colloidal silver, selenium, iron, or multimineral supplements.