What Is Potassium Iodide?

Should I Take Potassium Iodide due to Japanese Radiation?

Potassium Iodide is a chemical compound used in industry, as an additive to salt for health reasons, for pharmaceutical applications, and for the protection of the Thyroid during medical treatment and nuclear accidents.

This last application is why so many people on the American and Canadian west coast have begun buying potassium iodide from stores, in fear that radiation from the leaking radiation plant in Japan might cause radiation poisoning in them and their families.

On March 11, 2011, a rare megathrust earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The earthquake, measured at around 9.0 on the Richter Scale, caused massive flooding and devastation due to tsunami conditions.

These are the rarest of tremors, and this particular earthquake is said to have moved the Earth off its axis by 4 inches. One of the disasters produced by this massive release of force was to cause damage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, known in the media as the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant.

Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Fears were immediately aroused that the Fukushima Plant, among others, might experience a meltdown, because the emergency generators that cool the reactor core of a nuclear plant were knocked offline by the earthquake. With only four hours of so of emergency coolant, emergency procedures were taken to see the plant’s core did not overheat. The plant engineers decided to flood one reactor room (Unit 3) with sea-water, which eliminated the threat of the reactor core melting down.

Authorities knew this was likely to bring with it less dangerous side effects, but they decided eliminating any threat of core meltdown was worth the trade-off. That’s exactly what’s happened, as two explosions at Unit 3 of the Fukushima Plant have released radiation into the atmosphere, causing evacuations in the immediate vicinity of the plant. Radiation has leaked into the atmosphere, but nowhere near the dangerous levels that would occur if a reactor meltdown were to happen.

Panic in the United States

The continuing problems at the nuclear plants are what have touched off the potassium iodide panic in the Western United States and British Columbia, Canada. As the areas in North America closest to Japan, fear spread that radiation poisoning might occur due to radiation.

Officials have stated it would take 5 or 6 days for the radiation to reach the West Coast, by which time it would long since have dissipated into the atmosphere. Therefore, there is no need to use potassium iodide. In fact, it would be dangerous to take this compound, if you don’t have a medical condition and haven’t been exposed to radiation.

Side Effects of Potassium Iodide

Taking potassium iodide has numerous side effects on the human body, including irregular heartbeat, swelling of the lymph glands and other body tissue, numbness, fever, weakness, tingling of the hands and feet, unusual fatigue, stomach pains, nausea (including vomiting), a metallic taste in the mouth, mouth sores, and swelling in the neck and feet. Less severe side effects include loss of appetite, upset stomach, hives, pain in the joints, and acne.

Long term side effects include lack of mental clarity, severe headaches, arrhythmia, and skin lesions, along with ongoing fatigue, numbness, and weakness. Also, you may cause permanent damage to your thyroid by taking potassium iodide, especially if you have a history of goiter, hyperthyroidism, thyroiditis, or Graves’ disease. Also, all the side effects have a greater frequency in people over 40.

Potassium Iodide and Radiation Sickness

This is why no one should take potassium iodide, unless that person is in immediate danger of radiation poisoning and your doctor or an emergency care physician instructs you to take the compound. Most inorganic compounds, no matter what their benefits to the human body, are going to cause side effects. Taking a cure for a condition that isn’t there is unhealthy.

In the end, you have to listen to the officials and experts whose full-time job it is to know about these dangers and warn others of these dangers. Don’t listen to the neighbor down the street, the voice on the radio, or the co-worker who doesn’t even seem to know his own job. No matter what they might say or how convincing they sound, they haven’t studied the subject as much as experts in the field, who are a great deal less likely to make reckless statements for the sake of drawing attention to themselves.