As you may have already heard, there is a plume of radiation headed our way from Japan and should reach the US west coast today. Don’t Panic! As it looks right now,the amount of radiation is very small, however, the real issue may not be how much radiation exists outside your body, but inside it.
In general, the amount of radiation headed our way poses little health risk, but if the any of the particles that are coming here are radioactive iodine-131 (I-131), this can pose an increased threat to the thyroid gland.
In short, the thyroid absorbs iodine from the things we eat and if it absorbs I-131, then there is a concentrated level of radiation in the thyroid. Unless the radiation is (relatively) high, adults aren’t likely to be affected by small amounts; if you’re in your 40s or 50s, you’ll likely die of natural causes before developing any issues from the I-131 you may have ingested. However, children are very susceptible to thyroid damage. Again, DON’T PANIC. There are things you can do to mitigate this if you’re concerned.
If you’ve been following the news, you have probably heard about people talking about taking potassium iodide or potassium iodate ( aka, KI ) as a way to prevent the thyroid of absorbing radioactive iodine-131. While having this is a good thing to have on hand, the radiation levels aren’t high enough to warrant taking KI tablets, at least, not at this time. If the nuclear crisis in Japan worsens, we could see higher levels here in the US.
After the Chernobyl accident, thyroid radiation exposures occurred mainly due to drinking contaminated milk (this contamination was the result of milk cows grazing on fields affected by radioactive fallout) and to a much lesser extent by eating contaminated vegetables.
I don’t know if there is any radioactive iodine in the coming radiation cloud, but since kids’ thyroids are so sensitive to this danger and the solution is easy, there’s little risk or danger in taking this simple and easy precaution.
That action is to buy, at least, several weeks of dairy product, especially milk, now. Milk, yogurt, butter, eggs, etc. Milk can be stored in the freezer without any issues (we’ve done it many times). Vegetables and fruit should be washed well and/or peeled.
Since it generally takes less than 2 days for milk to go from cow to grocery store and pasteurization does not destroy the radiation, you should go out get the dairy products soon. Like, no later than Sunday.
Again, there is no need to panic, but if you’re concerned about the potential radiation coming your way, or don’t want to wait to learn that they misjudged or miscalculated what was in the cloud, I recommend that you take these simple and easy precautionary actions now.
Also, do not think that you can take iodized salt or nutritional iodine supplements in lieu of KI. There is about 15 micrograms of iodine in a teaspoon of salt, and probably in the average supplement. KI tabs have 130 milligrams for adults and 65 milligrams for children. This means you would need to take about 1000 teaspoons of salt or 1000 supplement pills every day. That much salt would kill you.
Another point I want to make is the safety of taking KI tabs, should you ever need to take them. Iodine allergies are rare. If you have an allergy to iodine, you already know about it. The potential side effects of taking KI tabs are no worse than the average OTC medicine, like Tylenol, Benadryl, etc. To me, the bigger issue is taking your KI tabs too soon and not having them when you really need them.
Keep in mind that iodine is commonly used, like in military water purification tablets. I have no idea how much iodine is in these tablets, but the water tastes absolutely awful. Hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of people have drank water treated with iodine.
Pass this along to anyone you know that has children.
UPDATE: DO NOT buy from eBay or Craigslist due to the high probability of fraud. I found a supplier of KI tabs at BuyEMP.com, which is a very reputable seller of medical and first-aid supplies. Last I saw this morning, they had some in stock.