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Protecting Against Radioiodine

A Feel 21, Inc. Health Report

If you're reading this and you live near a nuclear power plant you may already be familiar with Potassium iodide (KI). Since the incident at Chernobyl, nearly twenty years ago, scientists have learned a great deal about the effects radiation poisoning can have on people.

A person exposed to "fallout" can suffer from a myriad list of ailments, among them thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer, due to radiation poisoning, is caused by the uptake (through inhalation or ingestion) of radioiodine (a radioactive isotope of iodine). The treatment is practical enough but a few things should be explained before going on. For instance . . .

What Does The Thyroid Gland Do?

The gland produces a hormone (thyroxin) that regulates the metabolism of the body. From there, the thyroid gland has an influence in affecting many functions of the body including increasing heart rate and body temperature, mental alertness, enhancing energy, and increasing secretion of Growth Hormone.

Where Does Iodine Come Into Play?

The thyroid's primary "fuel" - as it were - is iodine. It uptakes the iodine and converts it into the necessary hormones for bodily function. This feature is wherein the danger lies. The thyroid gland, as previously stated, wants iodine. Wherever it can get it, it will. This makes it extremely vulnerable to the uptake of radioactive iodine.

This fact is both a cure and a crux.

Radioiodine, in controlled dosage, is the preferred treatment for thyroidal ilnesses such as thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism, and Grave's disease. The key is "CONTROLLED DOSAGE". Treatments are, ideally, under supervision and the threat of overexposure is limited. This is not the case in a radioactive fallout. Overexposure to radioiodine would be almost a certainty. The destroyed/damaged thyroid is then succeptible to the development of cancer. An interesting irony!

So what does all of this have to do Potassium iodide?

Since the thyroid is such a glutton for iodine, the best thing to do is to let it have it! If a nuclear emergency should occur, be it from a reactor or attack, the preferred way to block the uptake of radioiodine is by making certain that the gland is already saturated with iodine. Insert KI here! Potassium Iodide supplies the thyroid with the over-abundance of iodine it needs and prevents it from absorbing the radioactive iodine.

Believe it or not most of you have consumed Potassium Iodide, that is if you've ever used table salt. It's added to salt to help stave off iodine deficiency. Of course there's less than 0.01% so it's ineffective as a treatment. It will do you no good to consume huge quantities of salt in a radioactive emergency - you'll just end up with high blood pressure and will still have the threat of thyroid cancer.

In Case of Emergency!

We keep many things around the house, in case an emergency should arise, from rubbing alcohol to syrup of ipecac. If it expires, you throw it out and get more. The same goes for fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and flashlights. And the same should go for Potassium Iodide!

The concept is not one we like to let slip into our conscious minds - that of a severe nuclear emergency. But it is possible, especially under current conditions. It's always best to be prepared.

What do I do if I'm exposed?

In the event of a nuclear emergency, local officials will have the task of instructing the public on the immediate actions to take. In relation to radioactive iodine, the consumption of KI within 3-4 hours of exposure is necessary to help prevent the radioiodine uptake from occurring.

I'd like more information!

The information available on this subject is lengthy and a great deal is related to the incident at Chernobyl. For more information on this topic, read the U.S. FDA's Guidance for Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies.

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