With the recent news from Japan about the radiation leak from the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactors caused by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, many people ask us about the over-the-counter Potassium Iodide and on ways how to prevent radiation contamination.
Before we look into different ways of radiation prevention, let’s establish some facts known so far about the current situation in Japan. First and foremost, there is no known threat, direct or indirect, at this time to the Central Texas region. The official statement released by the Texas Nuclear Regulatory Commission office in Arlington says – “We are not expecting any harmful levels of radioactivity here right now,” and “weather conditions have taken the radiation from the Fukushima reactors out to sea, away from the population. We are continuing to monitor for radioactive releases and to be prepared to predict their path.” – Austin American Statesmen, March 15, 2011
Second fact, the over-the-counter Potassium Iodide is not necessarily a bullet proof radiation preventive measure for following reasons.
First, it only protects the thyroid gland from the radioactive I-131, one of the many radioactive isotopes emitted from the nuclear power plants. Though proven effective during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the subsequent FDA’s approval of the Potassium Iodide usage, it does not protect against multiple serious injuries caused by radioactive cesium-137 and strontium-90 for example.
Secondly, large quantity of Potassium Iodide intake may lead to many side-effects. Some report cites potential swelling of the parotid gland due to its stimulatory effects on saliva production. Other known side-effects may include acne, loss of appetite, upset stomach, fever, weakness, swelling of the neck or throat, mouth sores, rash, nausea, vomiting, etc… Additionally, Potassium Iodide may be a possible teratogen (agent that disturb the development of an embryo which may in turn cause a birth defect in the child).
That said, it is however, prudent for one to stockpile Potassium Iodide for immediate emergency use when faced with a real nuclear radiation exposure situation. It would make as one of the key items in my emergency preparedness kit.
In Part II of this blog, I will discuss what one can do to take simple and yet effective preventive measures against radiation exposure and their potential illnesses.