Potassium Iodide, Your Thyroid & Radiation Protection

There are people all over the world who keep non-expired doses of potassium iodide on hand to protect themselves in the case of a nuclear fallout or related radioactive disaster. They do this as a proactive way of protecting themselves in case a nuclear emergency involves the presence of radioactive iodine – frequently released in a cloud or plume into the air, after which it settles on the ground, contaminating everything it touches – including food sources.

By taking potassium iodide, only if advised to do so by health and safety officials, you can “block” the thyroid’s ability to uptake the radioactive version, minimizing the after affects.


Why is the thyroid so important?

When you think of radiation poisoning or the eventual cancers and other diseases associated with former radiation exposure, it may seem strange that the thyroid is the gland healthcare officials focus on and protect. However, the thyroid gland – a two-inch, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple – is a powerhouse; the human body doesn’t fare well when thyroid function is below par.

The thyroid gland is responsible for hormone production and your body’s metabolism, so when it is negatively impacted, you can experience issues pertaining to:

  • Overall metabolic rate
  • Digestion
  • Heart function
  • Muscle control
  • Moods
  • Fertility
  • Bone maintenance
  • Brain development

Iodine – found in certain foods and added to “iodized salt,” is an essential nutrient to the thyroid. During normal life, and with a healthy diet, the minimum amount of iodine the thyroid requires is assimilated via the foods you eat. Any lack of iodine can result in thyroid issues.

The thyroid can’t distinguish between radioactive & non-radioactive iodine

Because the thyroid only requires a fairly minimal amount of iodine to thrive, it has a threshold of sorts. Once it has absorbed all the iodine it can from the bloodstream, it stops absorbing it. However, the thyroid doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between radioactive iodine and non-radioactive iodine.

In the event of a nuclear disaster that releases radioactive iodine, taking the recommended doses of potassium iodide (non-radioactive) saturates the thyroid gland, serving as a radiation “blocker” since the thyroid will leave the radioactive version that’s then excreted by the body.

Also important to note: good ol’ fashioned soap and warm water, combined with a thorough and vigorous scrub, are enough to eradicate radioactive iodine that has settled on the clothes (best to discard altogether or launder repeatedly), skin, hair, etc. Read, How do You Stop A Radioactive Spill, for more information on that. While the post is targeted to industrial and chemical industries, the basic tenets apply to anyone exposed to radioactive fallout.

When should you take potassium iodide (KI)?

Potassium Iodide (KI) is the same type of iodine used in table salt. That being said, KI is added in such micro-doses to table salt that ingesting copious amounts of iodide salt will not help to protect you from radioactive iodide. In fact, the World Health Organization warns, “…iodized salt should not be used as a substitute for KI since it will not provide protection against radioactive iodine, and eating excessive amounts of iodized salt will itself pose a significant health hazard.”

Potassium iodide can be purchased in supplement form without a prescription. KI should only be taken upon recommendation of health and safety officials immediately preceding or during a nuclear event – and should never be taken as a precautionary supplement as that can have adverse health effects.

It’s best to purchase KI from regulated and approved agencies. At this point, the US Government currently backs the quality of four different KI products:

  • iOSAT tablets, 130mg, from Anbex, Inc.
  • ThyroSafe tablets, 65mg, from Recipharm AB
  • ThyroShield oral solution, 65mg/mL, from Arco Pharmaceuticals, LLC
  • Potassium Iodide Oral Solution USP, 65mg/mL, from Mission Pharmacal Company

Visit the CDC’s website page on Bioterrorism and Drug Preparedness for information about dosage (based on age, weight and the measured level of radioactive iodide exposure), when you should begin taking KI and for how long, who should avoid taking the supplement, adverse side effects/risks, etc.

KI doesn’t provide comprehensive radiation protection

It’s important to note that KI isn’t a comprehensive radiation shielding product, it only protects us from radioactive events that release radioactive iodide. It does not protect you from:

  • Any other radioactive materials, such as radioactive caesium
  • Surface radiation (it doesn’t protect you from exposure to radiation on your skin, the ground, etc.
  • Ingesting or absorbing radiation, it simply protects the thyroid gland from absorbing it, which goes a long way toward protecting the body’s basic physiologic functions.

More comprehensive radiation protection and shielding products are required to protect your body, lungs, and external body from radiation exposure.

Are you concerned about radiation protection and the ability to protect yourself and your family in the event of nuclear fallout involving radioactive iodide? Contact Lancs Industries. We’ve provided radiation shielding products and solutions for more than 40 years.

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