3/18/2011 update from National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA)
The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex has caused some panic-buying of potassium iodide (KI) and certain seaweed supplements in the US and elsewhere. There are many public misperceptions about the likelihood of nuclear fallout from Japan reaching the US and how potassium iodide may work to protect the thyroid in case of radiation exposure.
- Potassium iodide offers limited protection against radiation poisoning, and only if taken correctly. It should not be taken as a preventative measure unless you are likely to be exposed to radiation.
The FDA has approved the use of potassium iodide to protect the thyroid glands from radioactive iodine in cases involving accidents or nuclear emergencies. Radioactive iodine may lead to thyroid cancer, and taking potassium iodide can prevent the body from absorbing the radioactive iodine. The protective effect lasts approximately 24 hours. It does not protect the body from any other type of radiation poisoning, and may be ineffective in people over 40, because potential side effects increase with age.
- Radiation exposure in the US is highly unlikely.
At present, the Fukoshima nuclear plant hasn’t released enough radiation to cause health problems in most of Japan, let alone in the U.S (National Public Radio, March 17, 2011)
- Kelp and other iodine supplements do not offer the same limited protection as potassium iodide.
An adult would need a 130mg (milligram) dose of potassium iodide to protect the thyroid for 24 hours, A typical kelp supplement contains 225mcg (micrograms) of potassium iodide. So an adult would need to consume 550 kelp tablets to get the amount needed to block the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine.
- Manufacturers of potassium iodide supplements are sending supplements to Japan, and there are likely to be out of stocks for the foreseeable future.
Under ordinary circumstances, potassium iodide supplements would be readily available over the counter at pharmacies, on line, and at some food co-ops. Supplies are needed in Japan and may not be available to people who are not at risk of radiation poisoning for some time.
- Do not be the victim of a scam; unscrupulous companies are offering a product called “potassium iodate” to consumers.
While potassium iodate is a form of iodine, it cannot be metabolized in a way that will block the radioactive iodine from being absorbed.
For more information about potassium iodide:
Centers for Disease Control: http://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/ki.asp
Outpost Co-op’s blog: http://www.outpost.coop/connect/blog/postscript/800/the-inside-dope-on-iodine/