Radioactivity--- from Japan's earthquake-breached Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant--- has now been detected as far east as Boston.
Japanese officials moved quickly to distribute potassium iodide, in response to the disaster. Why?
Because the most dangerous radioactive materials (released after a nuclear power accident) are radioactive iodine (the iodine-131 isotope, in particular) and radioactive cesium (cesium-137).
News reports have identified both deadly substances detected outside the Fukushima plant. In the air, in the seawater, even in tap water as far as Tokyo. And now the Atlantic seaboard of the USA! Can it be long before the leakage circumnavigates the globe?
So just what is radioactive iodine? Its a deadly byproduct of the fission (splitting) of the uranium. This happens in the fuel rods that power a nuclear power plant.
An what can RI do that's so bad? Once radioactive iodine is in the body, it concentrates in the thyroid gland--- in the base of the neck, just below your Adam’s apple. There it will stay, and can causer thyroid cancer in time. And that can kill you.
How can you keep it out? By making certain that your body needs no iodine uptake, whatsoever.
That's why Japan is wasting no time in widely dispensing the Potassium Iodine, in pill form. For this at least, they were prepared.
So, just how do the pills work?
Potassium iodide pills--- sometimes abbreviated as KI: the K stands for potassium, the I for iodine--- can’t prevent radioactive iodine from entering your body. The pills work by keeping the bad radioactive iodine from accumulating in your thyroid gland.
The KI floods your body with non-radioactive iodine, preventing your thyroid from absorbing the radioactive iodine.
The Center for Disease Control explains it this way: "Because KI contains so much stable iodine, the thyroid gland becomes “full” and cannot absorb any more iodine—either stable or radioactive—for the next 24 hours."
NOTE: (Harvard Health says that children and infants are more vulnerable to developing thyroid cancer from radioactive iodine than adults, so it’s important that they get the pills in a radiation emergency. But the pills can be hard to swallow, especially for infants, and potassium iodide dissolved in water has a harsh, salty taste. The FDA tip: grind the pills up and mix them into low-fat chocolate milk, orange juice, or flat soda.)
CAUTION! Large doses of iodine over a long period of time can be dangerous. Potassium iodide pills should be reserved for true emergencies. But that also means being ready, in case they are needed.
And what about the iodized table salt you take every day with food? Nope. Many varieties of table salt are “iodized,’ which means iodine has been added. But iodized table salt doesn’t contain enough iodine to saturate the thyroid gland--- not nearly enough to keep it from absorbing radioactive iodine.
So far, no agency is recommending that US inhabitants take Potassium Iodide--- but many people are preparing, by stocking up.
At MDINFO, your best health is measured by your best health information--- and isn't it always better to be prepared?