A serious run on potassium iodine manufacturers has ensued in the wake of the nuclear accidents in Japan. It was early morning in the United States and by the evening most places you can buy them were out. Potassium iodine has been proven very effective in preventing thyroid cancer in subjects exposed to massive doses of radiation. We have the poor people exposed to the radioactive cloud that came from Chernobyl in 1986 to thank for that research.
Although not entirely without merit, this classic overreaction by the masses demonstrates the inability of the majority of people to grasp a more intricate problem. If you are being exposed to radiation in large enough doses to give you thyroid cancer, YOUR BEING EXPOSED TO RADIATION. Not the benign radiation from your cellular phone or computer screen that could possibly give you cancer after many years of exposure. Full-blown, knock-down, drag-out, boil-your-brain-inside-your-head, fallout type radiation.
The FDA issued a procedural statement in 2001. The US government recommends 130mg daily starting a few hours after exposure to fourteen days post exposure. Post-exposure meaning after you are not being exposed any longer of course. There are recommendations for adolescents, children, and infants also. Of note: adolescents thirteen years or older are usually close to adult weight and should be dosed at adult doses. Normal adult weight is 70kg or 154lbs. For more dosing information find a competent pharmacist to help you. The FDA document is called “Guidance Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies”. It is available on the internet and from your local Health and Human Services Dept. among other places.
Potassium iodine prophylaxis is up to 99% effective in preventing thyroid cancer if the guidelines are followed. It’s a decent wager that the other 1% is probably people that were going to get it anyway. It has been shown in some study groups to only protect nine out of ten people though (90%). It works by taking up all the spots for iodine in the thyroid gland. This effectively blocks the poisonous radioactive iodine-131 from finding a spot there.
There are only three approved products available in the US for purchase by the public. IostatT, ThyroBlockT, and ThyroShieldT. The FDA also keeps massive stockpiles of this supplement in areas near nuclear reactors. The amount of stockpiled medication is proportional to the population of a predefined radius around the reactors. It is important to note that potassium iodine is the only form that has been studied. There is no scientifically derived data on anything else including the also popular potassium iodate. The same goes for other brands. The FDA recommends only the above three. However, the FDA is not the only authority and in the past they have been horribly wrong. I will leave you with this advice: Make sure the manufacturer is reputable and well-established or you are taking the risk of buying expensive trash. In addition, don't buy enteric-coated potassium as it causes intestinal bleeding at alarming rates.
There are adverse events associated with iodine supplementation as well. Be warned that messing with your thyroid gland can cause it to malfunction. Patients in study groups have been shown to develop both low and high thyroid function and the side effects that come with it. The most serious I saw in my perusing of the literature were heart-related issues. Of note: unborn babies are not immune to these effects. In the case of actual radiation exposure though I’m sure that these risks vastly underweigh the extremely high potential for thyroid cancer.
Providing the levels are low and confined to small amounts in the air, soil, water, and food potassium iodine should protect you from thyroid cancer. The protection does not extend to other organ systems though. The thyroid gland is one of the more sensitive organs because of the constant iodine uptake. In large enough doses, radiation does catch up to you. A good way to tell you’ve gotten too much exposure is monitoring for symptoms like ones that appear with the flu. Feeling more ill and tired than normal, maybe mixed in with a headache that’s worse than normal. The escalating cases see bloody diarrhea, hair loss, etc. The really bad exposures see radiation burns and the other stuff you see in disaster movies.
You can buy a radiation preparedness kit anywhere that caters to survivalists. Make sure it’s got at least three items. Potassium iodine, an N95 mask (filters 95% of particles above a certain size), and a radiation measurement tool. Make sure the N95 mask fits right around the jaw to not allow particles through openings underneath. Other things commonly found in these kits are pretty standard to survival kits. That includes things like radios, antibiotics, flashlights, boots, first-aid kits, water purifying pellets, etc.
That doesn’t wrap it up but I could talk forever. Please feel free to ask me questions. It may prompt me to write some more or I may answer it individually. Thanks for reading. Mike