Potassium Iodine During a Nuclear Incident


How can I protect myself an be ready?

Have your mobile phone handy and charged. Governments will send out mass sms messages to the population when danger of a nuclear incident is imminent.

Switch to your local TV channels. Emergency news will advise on shelter/secure locations as well as guide in your local language on what to do next.

What must I do after high-level radiation exposure?

To avoid further contamination in your home/shelter, after being exposed to radiation take off your clothes at entrance into a room. Collect your clothes and footwear in a polybag. Close a bag tightly and put it in a safe location far from living areas, as well as out of reach of children and pets.

Take a shower or bath with warm water and soap.

Inform appropriate authorities about potential contamination of your clothes and personal items with an eye to treat and dispose them appropriately in accordance with approved national procedures.

What is meant by recommendation to stay indoors?

In case of a radioactive or nuclear incident, population of exposed areas may be decreed by public health authorities to stay indoors instead of evacuation. You may be recommended to cover in your home, office or collective shelters. These shelters can protect people from external radiation or radioactive substance inhalation.

If you should stay indoors, find the safest room in your home or building you work in (when applicable, choose a room without windows and external doors). Turn off air ventilation systems.

Heat maintenance is a critical issue at sub-zero temperatures. If you should find shelter in your home, office or any other building, gas, coal or firewood may be unsafe fuel for heating. Lack of appropriate ventilation may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Electric heaters (if any) would be the safest devices.

What are potassium iodide tablets?

Potassium iodide tablets are sources of stable (i.e., non-radioactive) iodine. This substance is essential for thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. Appropriate concentration of stable iodine inhibits thyroidal absorption of radioactive iodine (i.e., radioiodine) to decrease thyroid cancer risk which may be induced by radioiodine exposure.

Potassium iodide tablets are not ”radiation antidotes”. They cannot protect from external radiation or other radioactive substances except radioactive iodine. Also, these tablets may cause medical complications in several individuals (e.g., patients with renal impairment). Thus, potassium iodide administration must come after exact medical recommendations linked to this measure.

When and why must I use potassium iodide?

Potassium iodide administration must come after appropriate recommendations of public health authorities. If you are at risk of potassium iodide exposure or have already undergone it, you may receive potassium iodide tablets to protect your thyroid from radioactive iodine uptake. These tablets used before or relatively soon after the exposure may promote reduced risk of thyroid cancer in the long run.

Should I use iodized salt to protect myself from radiation?

No, you should not use iodized salt for this purpose. It’s dangerous to intake high doses of iodized salt to increase stable iodine concentration in your body.

Higher daily dose of this salt can do harm rather than good. Sodium chloride associated with hypertension (high arterial blood pressure) and other health issues is a principal component of iodized salt. Iodine concentration in iodized salt is too low to prevent radioactive iodine uptake.

High concentration of sodium chloride causes acute intoxication; even several teaspoons administered within short-term period may lead to such outcome.

May I intake iodine containing in other products?

No, you must not consume iodine-containing products except those recommended by public health authorities.

Iodine is contained in a wide range of domestic and industrial products. Thus, for example, it may be found in several disinfectants, antiseptics and water sterilising solutions. Due to other ingredients which may provide harmful effect if swallowed, these products must not be used as alternatives to potassium iodide tablets.

May pregnant women intake potassium iodide tablets?

Yes, most of pregnant women may use potassium iodide tablets according to instructions of public health authorities. Potassium iodide protects maternal thyroid, as well as the same organ of growing fetus by means of transplacental penetration.

How should nursing women use potassium iodide?

As with other populations, nursing women must use potassium iodide tablets only in case of recommendations of public health authorities. However, this advice is not enough to provide a complete protection for nursing children who will be also short of potassium iodide administered in special doses adjusted for newborns and infants. If these conditions are met, breast feeding may be continued.

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