Potassium Iodide and Potassium Iodate and Their Use in Radiologic Emergencies
by Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel, B.S. E.S. R.N.
Potassium Iodide is a salt which when taken in the proper amounts, can block the uptake of radioactive iodine. It is frequently marketed in tablets, under the name of “Iosat”. Administering Iosat can be very beneficial because the thyroid can be quite vulnerable to radioactive iodine in a radiologic emergency, and because this strategy can benefit us in the prevention of later thyroid cancer. It is important to realize that even when properly used and taken as directed by public health officials, that the only organ protected by this practice is the thyroid, therefore evacuation from a contaminated area is always best. Since radioactive iodine has a half life of eight days, rational evacuation of a week or two may be all that is necessary. (Supposing that in this particular emergency, only radioactive iodine is released.) Following a radiologic emergency, a combination of administering potassium iodide tablets to human beings in the target area, coupled with evacuation, even for a week or two, is usually the best course.
Failure to take potassium iodide following a radiologic emergency may result in immediate or long term effects on the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancer, goiters, hypothyroidism, and thyroid growths may occur following untreated exposure to higher levels of radioactive iodine. Since thyroid failure in a child can impact intellect, and thyroid failure in a woman can impact successful reproduction, these are important considerations.
Many of us have chosen to keep an adequate supply of potassium iodide tablets for potential radiologic emergency in advance of such an occurance. This way, we sidestep distribution difficulties in a time in which our governmental and public health authorities will be most occupied. The tablets being sold now, most often have an expiration date of 2017. Those with small children, or with elderly family members may wish to consider buying the liquid preparation of this drug. The liquid version of this drug is said to expire in five years and is marketed as “Thyro-Shield”. In the past, I have purchased thyroid protective medication in advance of a radiologic emergency from the following sources:
http://www.nukepills.com/ potassium iodide
Please know that following the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear reactor disasters in Japan, many sources of potassium iodide are temporarily unavailable, as they help to meet the need in Japan, not only for the Japanese people, but for first responders from other nations as they rush to help. Please rest assured that all sources here in America, will likely restock very quickly thereafter.
Both the dose required is noted on each package, as is the expiration date of each package. These medications should be kept in a cool, dry place. They may be effective beyond their expiration date, but I have replaced them as we approach expiration, in the years that we have kept these in our emergency supplies. I keep the expired tablets, in a plastic bag, marked EXPIRED, and I save them. I save them in the event that in an emergency they could be useful to someone, or in the event that an official veterinary body makes an official recommendation for animals, as at the present time, they have not. Iosat is approved by the FDA for this use and is stockpiled by many arms of the US government.
Potassium Iodate is also marketed for the purpose of blocking radioactive iodine uptake by the thyroid. (One of the brand names is Rad-Block) Presently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) questions whether potassium iodate is as effective at blocking radioactive iodine uptake of the thyroid, as Potassium Iodide is. Therefore, Potassium Iodate is not approved by the FDA, but is in fact, available for sale at a variety of internet sources. The FDA also has voiced concerns regarding a higher potential for side effects from ingesting the Potassium Iodate preparation. Other nations may still stock and sell this in their pharmacies.
I think it is unquestionably wise for every family to invest the sum it would take to provide Potassium Iodide to their family members for a period of a few days, while planning to evacuate following a radiologic emergency. Although a “Dirty Bomb” is generally a local phenomenon, the potential for a nuclear bomb or even fallout from a local nuclear reactor, you may not even know existed in your area, is always possible. Although this does take some planning, reading and forethought, it is one of the easiest disaster preparations a family can make.
Although the news presently seems to indicate that the Japanese nuclear disaster will not adversely impact the contiguous United States, it is not over just yet. The Japanese still have six reactors in close proximity to one another, in tandem with spent nuclear fuel rods which are not yet being optimally cooled. This should be a lesson in the need for preparation for potential radiologic disaster for us all.
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