Thyroid protection in the case of nuclear accidents is paramount. Timely action can help prevent thyroid cancer, according to the WHO. In the wake of recent tragic events in Japan, we explain here a simple, low-cost way you can help protect your family if you are in danger of exposure to nuclear fallout from the nuclear reactor accident in Japan.
Conflicting reports are surfacing regarding the real condition of the affected nuclear reactors in Japan; it seems that the Japanese government and much of the mainstream media may be trying to make things not look as bad as they might be in regards to the this week's nuclear accident, the result of the earthquake and the following tsunami.
There are no guarantees that the workers at those nuclear facilities will be able to keep things under control. Only in the coming days will we know.
What we do know is that the government is evacuating hundreds of thousands of people from the area and are preparing for the worst. Independent experts are being very cautious, but express their concerns that the worst case scenario is possible.
Here's the big question
By the time we find out if there is, or has been, a meltdown or an explosion at those nuclear power plants, how much time will we have to take action to provide thyroid protection for our families and loved ones?
It will depend on how far away you are from the accident when you hear about the danger in your area.
Once any nuclear material reaches the atmosphere and gets carried by the jet streams, there could very well be widespread nuclear fallout and acid rain many hundreds and even thousands of miles away.
Radiation releases are not "local" events. Researchers at the World Health Organization accurately located and counted the cancer victims from Chernobyl and were startled to find that "the increase in incidence [of thyroid cancer] has been documented up to 500 km from the accident site...significant doses from radioactive iodine can occur hundreds of kilometers from the site, beyond emergency planning zones."1
Thyroid protection: Here's the single most important thing you can do!
The very first thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from thyroid damage due to exposure to radioactive fallout from the disaster in Japan, or almost any other radioactive situation for that matter, is to get yourself potassium iodide pills or liquid.
These are very inexpensive and can be purchased without a prescription from just about any pharmacy or health food store. Compounding pharmacies should also be able to prepare potassium iodide pills or liquid for you.
Why use potassium iodide to provide thyroid protection?
In the case of a nuclear accident or attack at a nuclear power plant, volatile fission radionuclides may be released, of which iodine-131 (also called radioiodine) is one of the most common by-products--and a particularly dangerous one due to the fact that it becomes concentrated in the thyroid gland. This can lead to thyroid cancer.
This is why thyroid protection is so important.
When the body has sufficient stable iodine prior to exposure to iodine-131, inhaled or ingested iodine-131 tends to be excreted in the urine.2
In other words, if your body has all the stable iodine it needs, then if you are exposed to radioactive iodine (iodine-131), your body doesn't assimilate it; it just passes the radioactive iodine off in the urine.
But if you are deficient in iodine and you are exposed to even minute quantities of radioactive iodine, your thyroid gland will absorb it. Other vital organs can then become exposed via the lymph system.
Your body cannot tell the difference between stable iodine and radioactive iodine.
When should you take potassium iodide?
Since there are side effects of taking potassium iodide, you should be sure that you need it before taking it. In the case of uncertainty, you'll just have to weigh the risks. Please see below for more on the negative effects of using potassium iodide.
That said, you should take potassium iodide as quickly as possible after being warned of a nuclear disaster or accident. The FDA says that potassium iodide works best if used within 3 to 4 hours of exposure. This is why we're suggesting that you have some of this product on hand at home.
Another very important reason to have potassium iodide on hand, is that when a nuclear reactor accident actually occurs, supplies will disappear very fast. Case in point: When we first started writing this article a few hours ago, our favorite supplier of herbal products had its potassium iodide products in stock. But now, just a few hours later, they are completely sold out! As someone wisely said, "It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it."
Radioactive iodine has a very short half-life. That means that it breaks down and becomes stable rather quickly. So this would normally be the kind of emergency in which you would take one dose of potassium iodide (unless otherwise directed by health authorities) and then you'd be protected.
Do be careful with the expiration date, as if the product is too old (it usually turns yellowish when it's oxidized) you shouldn't use it.
But the product is so inexpensive, it's one of those things that in an emergency, having it on hand and using it could make the difference between health and sickness.
Potassium iodide provides thyroid protection, but what about the rest of my body?
Unfortunately, potassium iodide does not protect the body from other radionuclides. In many nuclear processes, iodine-131 (the radioactive iodine we've been talking about that goes to the thyroid) is the major byproduct.
But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Potassium iodide cannot protect against any other causes of radiation poisoning, nor can it provide any degree of protection against dirty bombs that produce radionuclides other than isotopes of iodine."
What is the recommended dosage for thyroid protection?
The recommended dosage for radiological emergencies involving radioactive iodine are the following:
12 years or older: 130 mg
3-12 years old: 65 mg
1- 36 months old: 32 mg
Less than 1 month old: 16 mg
Our heartfelt prayers are with the people of Japan in this time of tragedy, and will continue to be.
Our recommendation: World Organic, Liguid Potassium Iodide This brand seems to be as natural as you can get and the store is iHerb, one our favorites as well. Good service and they don't carry outdated products. You can even see the expiration date of the product they are selling you at checkout. And you get a US$5 discount using our Cupon Code: SEQ577Late News Flash! iHerb is now out of stock of all potassium iodide products. This is a good reason to always have it on hand. If you do find this product, one 2 oz. bottle contains only 70mg of iodine so you would have to take nearly two bottles for just one dose. We will be publishing a resource page with information on how to get potassium iodide from a compounding pharmacy. Stay tuned for updates.