What To Know Right Now About Radiation Protection

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Potassium Iodide – Protection From Radiation For Your Thyroid

I have started to receive a flood of e-mails and quite a few calls asking about the dangers from the nuclear disasters in Japan.  People are worried and understandably so.  There is a ton of  wrong information about radiation risks and sensible measures floating around right now.  So I thought I would see what I could do to clear some of it up.

First, let me say that my heart goes out to the people of Japan.  I hope and pray for their safety and that all that is possible be done to lessen the suffering and to help in all ways.  My condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.  There are a number of charities that are helping in the relief effort.  If you are able…Just be sure you pick one where the money goes where it actually should.

Next, I want to emphasize that going off half-informed with so-called preventive measures can be more dangerous than doing nothing.  A lot of people have heard that taking potassium iodide protects against the radioactive iodine that is released in most nuclear accidents.

That is true, but there is critical information you need in order to use potassium iodide safely.  Please DO NOT just start taking a large amount of potassium iodide.  To do so is absolutely NOT SAFE.  This is one of those supplements that is safe in appropriate amounts but not in larger amounts.  It will become toxic quite quickly.  Please be sure to heed this warning.

Background:
Where there is an accident or other disaster at a nuclear power plant one of the radioactive elements that is almost always released is iodine.  This is generally airborne and can travel very long distances, depending on the vagaries of wind and other weather conditions.

Your thyroid gland must have iodine to create the thyroid hormone.  Normally it would get safe, non-radioactive iodine in the trace amounts that it needs from salt and other food matter that you eat.

In nature, iodine occurs in two isotopes, iodine-127 and iodine-129.  Iodine-127 is stable, that is, not radioactive.  Iodine-129 is radioactive, but naturally occurs in small quantities so it is not normally present in high enough concentrations to pose a significant health risk.

There are a total of 37 known isotopes of iodine, only one of which, iodine-127, is stable or not radioactive.  However, most of these isotopes are rare, or have very short half-lives, and so decay very quickly.  The isotopes that decay quickly pose little risk at any distance from a nuclear event.  They will not last long enough to be dangerous once they have traveled any appreciable distance from the origin site.

Iodine-131 is the isotope to focus on.  It does not occur in nature and is present in high concentrations and amounts in nuclear power plants.

Iodine-131 does pose a serious health risk.  It can easily become airborne in various nuclear accidents scenarios.  It has a longer half-life than some of the other radioisotopes of iodine, so it remains radioactive even after traveling significant distances from the origin site.

There are two typical ways that iodine-131 can make its way into the human body:

  1. It can land on fields and contaminate livestock and produce and subsequently ingested as food.
  2. It can be inhaled while still airborne.

In either case, there is risk that it will be collected and concentrated in the thyroid gland, which requires iodine to produce its thyroid hormones.

Under normal circumstances, the thyroid gland collects and concentrates iodine-127, which is stable and not radioactive.  So all is well.  However, when significant amounts of the radioactive iodine-131 are available or in the environment, the thyroid cannot tell the difference between the safe iodine-127 and the dangerous radioactive iodine-131.

And it ends up concentrating the radioactive iodine-131 in the thyroid gland.  As a result, the thyroid gland gets exposed to strong radiation, which damages it and can lead to thyroid cancer.

This is one of the most significant health risks that nuclear accidents and plant disasters can pose to people even at a long distance from the origin site.  Of course, the material must rise high enough to get into global wind streams to spread the risk more than a few hundred, or perhaps a thousand miles.

Aside from the acute severe injuries suffered by those unfortunate enough to be in the plant or close to it, almost all of the health problems resulting from the 1986 Chernobyl Disaster were thyroid cancers caused by radioactive iodine-131.  Further, those exposed but who did not develop cancers will almost certainly be at elevated risk of thyroid cancers for the rest of their lives.

One way to keep the thyroid from collecting and concentrating radioactive iodine-131 from a nuclear event is to make sure it has a temporary overabundance of non-radioactive iodine-127 available in the body.  A practical way to do this is take a relatively high dose of the stable, non-radioactive iodine for a very short period of time.

Potassium iodide is the preferred form for this type of this protective iodine.  This seems to be very effective, and safe as long as the higher dose is taken for a very short period of time.  The FDA generally recommends not longer than 2 or 3 days.  (I have a link to their guidelines, which I think are pretty good, farther down in this post.)

It is useful to note that the thyroid cancer rates have been very high in the Chernobyl area and in some surrounding areas since the accident.  However, in nearby Poland, where potassium iodide was quickly distributed, the thyroid cancer rates have not risen significantly, even though the area clearly was contaminated.

Practical Measures:
I don’t think anyone knows at this point if we will see significant iodine-131 contamination anywhere in the North America.  However, if we do, or perhaps in preparation in case we do, there are a few things we can do to mitigate the risk of thyroid cancer:

  • We can stockpile some potassium iodide
  • Make sure we know how to safely use it.  (See FDA guidelines in linked PDF below.  I think they are pretty good.)
  • Take a very small amount of potassium iodide now.  (See 2nd link below.)
  • If contamination does occur, then avoid those foods that are most likely to contain iodine-131, such as milk and field-grown produce.
  • Don’t stress out!  The likelihood of a strong North American contamination does not seem very high at this point.

One of the easiest sources for potassium iodide in high enough doses to be effective in the event of a contamination is a product called “iosat”.  This is available from Amazon and a number of other on-line sources.  You might want to order some to have around for “just in case”.  It is not expensive and it has a very long shelf-life.

But Please do NOT take them just in case – wait until there is real evidence of contamination.  See the precautions published in the FDA article.  They are valid and should be followed!!  I cannot stress this enough.  There are real side-effects that show up in some people.  Do not exceed the FDA-recommended dose.  Do not take for longer than the recommended time period.

Here is that link to the FDA guidelines for using potassium iodide to protect against radioactive iodine exposure:

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM080542.pdf

Also, if you would like a smaller, safe amount of potassium iodide that can be taken daily forever for general thyroid health and protection, it is available from Pure Encapsulations.  Again, do not exceed the recommended amount that is on the product label.  Here is the link:

Pure Encapsulations Potassium Iodide 225 mcg –

http://www.purecapspro.com/myhealth/products/product_details.asp?ProductsID=1204

One More Crucial Point:
Potassium Iodide and other forms of iodine will ONLY protect against radiation damage to the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine-131.  And although that is the only radioactive isotope of iodine that is likely to travel any appreciable distance from the event site, it may not be the only radioactive contaminant that may escape from the site.  Depending on the type of event, the design of the plant, and the status of the spent fuel rods when the event occurred, other radioactive elements are likely to be released in various quantities.

These can include plutonium, cesium and several others.  Again the potassium iodide will not offer any protection from these other radioactive elements at all!

The good news is that in most cases these other radioactive elements are not likely to travel very far from the event site.  For example, it is extremely unlikely that a significant amount of them will wind up anywhere in North America.

However, in the very unlikely event that other radioactive elements do show up in distant locations, and you happen to be in one of them, here are a few simple precautions you can take:

1.  Avoid direct exposure.  For example, if the material is still airborne, wear rain gear and a good particulate breathing mask if you must go outdoors.  Limit your time outdoors for as long as the contamination is airborne.

2.  Begin following heavy metal detox protocols as soon as possible.  I recommended the simple ones that you can do yourself, such as eating as much organic, raw cilantro as you can.  Also taking a high quality Organic Sulfur can help.  While the exposure is present, I would take up to 3 tablespoons of Organic sulfur in the form of pure, additive-free MethylSulphonylMethane crystals per day.  Also, eating organic chlorella will help.  All of these agents are very safe and highly effective ways to help your body get rid of heavy meta toxins, whether radioactive or not – always a good health measure.

Please e-mail me or use this link if you want to learn more about high quality Organic Sulfur in pure MethylSulphonylMethane form :  jeff@myhealthoptimizer.com / or follow this link:  Safe and Effective Organic Sulfur in MethylSulphonylMethane form

Here is a summary of the FDA recommendation for radiation exposure mitigation with potassium iodide:   (I prefer that you read the complete FDA write-up on this beforehandif you intend to acquire and possibly use the higher dose potassium iodide, such as iosat.  But for those who just won’t read it, here it the essential information:)  The FDA approved protocol is 65-130 milligrams of potassium iodide as a single dose and repeated the following day.  This can be at the onset of exposure, or a few hours prior to an anticipated exposure.

However, these high doses are not suitable for repeated or prophylactic use.  The use of lower doses, (in the range of 225 mcg to 250 mcg per day), offers some protection over a longer period of time as it can be taken on a daily basis.

Orally, iodine can cause marked sensitivity.  Symptoms of iodine hypersensitivity are: angioedema, cutaneous and mucosal hemorrhage, fever, arthralgia, lymph node enlargement, eosinophilia, urticaria, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, and fatal periarteritis.  Large amounts or chronic use of iodine can cause metallic taste; soreness in teeth and gums; burning in mouth and throat; increased salivation; coryza; sneezing; eye irritation and eyelid swelling; headache; cough; pulmonary edema; swelling of parotid and submaxillary glands; inflammation of the pharynx, larynx and tonsils; acne-form skin lesions; gastric upset; diarrhea; anorexia; anddepression.  Prolonged use of iodides can cause thyroid gland hyperplasia, thyroid adenoma, goiter, and severe hypothyroidism.

To your health!

Jeff Bell

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14 Comments

  1. Chris
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Jeff,

    I live in the Seattle area and cannot get my hands on iosat. I do have some Pure Encapsulations Potassium Iodide though and was wondering if this will help OR should I still hunt down some iosat. Thanks

    • Jeff Bell
      Posted March 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      I would start taking the Pure Encapsulations potassium Iodide right away. But don’t count on that to completely handle things. The amount of iodine in the Pure Encapsulations formula is a couple of whole orders of magnitude too small for this purpose. It is suitable for the everyday, long-term ongoing use for which it was desiugned. I think it is 225 mcg, or micro-grams, when what you are looking for is 130 mg or miligrams.

      So meanwhile hunt down some iosat, or any other potassium iodide product that would allow you to get up to 130 mg for two doses, aideally about 20 hours apart. But don’t actually take that until or unless there is notice that exposure is imminent, say a few hours away. Use that as your signal to take the first dose. It is effective when taken just as the exposure occurs, but it is even more effective in protecting against thyroid cancer when taken a few hours ahead of the exposure.

      Just in case you may not be able to obtain the iosat or equivalent soon enough, don’t panic. (I am n the San Francisco Bay Area, and the stores around here sold out long ago.) You can also take advantage of living in Seattle. Go to the nearest japanese or Oriental foods market and get some kelp and eat it. The “Dashi konbu” that is often used to make the starting stock for good miso soup will work. It has a pretty high organic iodine content, so it will help. The only problem with it is that there will be no easy way to tell how much iodine you are getting. So that is a reason to still try and find some of the iosat.

      By the way, for those who might want to convert miligrams and micrograms here is the scoop:

      A microgram is one thousandth of a miligram. A miligram is one thousandth of a gram. so:

      To convert micrograms to milligrams divide by 1000 e.g. 50mcg = 0.05 mg

      To convert milligrams to micrograms multiply by 1000 e.g. 0.05mg = 50mcg

      1000mcg in 1mg

      1 million mcg in 1 gram

      1000 grams in 1 kilogram

      I hope that helps.

  2. Jeff Bell
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    If you cannot find any of the recommended potassium iodide tablets in approximately 130 mg size, which may be the case because many areas are sold out, don’t panic. In addition to using food-grade kelp such as that available at many Oriental food stores, you could also use a topical solution of Betadine. Don’t drink it!!! Instead use it per the recommendations in my other 3/14/2011 post about “A Few More Radiation Measures”. Properly used it will be effective.

    Hope that helps.

    To your helath,

    Jeff

  3. Chris
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    I managed to find some Iodoral 50mg tabs 90 count so I imagine I should be ok along with my family. If I am wrong let me know. but thanks for your help !

    • Jeff Bell
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      To be honest I am not sure if the Iodoral tablets will provide the protection that you are looking for. The tablets I know of are 5 mg of iodine and 7.5 mg of iodide. But your target for an adult is the initial dose of 130 mg and then repeat 24 hours later, with a possible 3rd dose another 24 hours later if the exposure is severe. Since I am not sure about the absorption and bioavailability of the actual iodine inthe Iodoral, I would not want to recommend just taking enough of them to result in an approxiamte 130 mg dose. Overdoses of iodine are dangerous, so that does not feel safe to me.

      However, if you have found 50 mg tablets, than I would think that taking 2 and 1/2 of them per dose for 2 or 3 doses, separated by 24 hours should do the trick. But really check out the amounts. Gross underdoses will not be very effective and even moderate overdoses can have serious consequences.

      I offer a couple more alternatives in my latest post on the subject. Also, I believe that a A2Z has iodide in 65 mg tablets. I think they still have stock. So you could get those, and I think taking 2 at a time would be safe. Be sure to decrease the amount for children!!

      Here is a link for the iodide that A2Z has in stock:

      https://cart.mmsdr.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=57&zenid=f87eae33f2da2ab7ce4a3940e1f73c10

      If you call them you might be able to get them to expedite the order and use fast shipping. I’m sure they will understand the urgency.

      Hope that helps,

      Jeff Bell

  4. Howard Sambol
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Jeff, great aricle. Thanks for giving us the key information we need to remain protected from this nightmare disaster.

    Sincerely,
    Howard

    • Jeff Bell
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Thanks for your knid words. Please share the posts or the information. I am very concerned that peole may panic and start taking large amounts of iodine without knowing how to do so safely. That could serioiusly harm a lot of people.

      Meanwhile my heart goes out to the people of Japan who are really in harm’s way.

  5. jody
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for your information and perspective.
    I’ve been reading other people who are strongly suggesting daily eating of seaweed as a way of ensuring(?) that one is not iodine deficient. Is there a reasonably simple to determine if one is deficient?
    Is it indeed correct that only a deficiency will lead to further uptake of iodine – whether radioactive or benign?

    • Jeff Bell
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for a great question! The whole subject of iodine and its use of iodine gets complex pretty quickly. This is a pretty deep rabbit hole of human biology and biochemistry. But here is the short answer that you can use for now: Iodine deficiency is a chronic condition where there is a long-term shortage of bioavailable iodine for the thyroid gland to use.

      A blood spot test that measures bioavailable iodine is one of the best ways to detect that. Of course, that is not practical under most emergency conditions. Also, that is only useful to detect a chronic shortage. It is not useful for determining if the thyroid gland needs more immediate iodine and is ready to take some up or not.

      Also, bioavailable iodine only persists in the body for about 24 hours. Then it must be replenished. However, this need for replenishment is separate from a chronic deficiency. The bioavailable iodine must be replaced every 24 hours or so, regardless of whether there is a chronic iodine deficiency or not.

      Currently accepted standards, (which I think are pretty well established by reasonably reliable scientific means), indicate that for most adults, if you want to prevent the thyroid from “scavenging” for iodine, you need to ingest about 135 mg of bioavailable iodine.

      So if radioactive iodine is in present in the environment in significant quantities, then immediately prior to exposure, it is ideal to take 135 mg. Then repeat that dose in 24 hours. If the exposure is persistent, possibly repeat the dose one more time 24 hours after the 2nd dose.

      But I would really hesitate to do a 4th dose at that level. It is pretty easy to overdose on iodine and the results can be truly terrible, even fatal. (A significant iodine overdose and disrupt cardiac rhythm and function.)

      On the other hand, an under dose will not provide effective protection in the event of radioactive exposure. The difference between an overdose and an under dose is pretty small. So there is not very much margin for error.

      Because such dosing precision is needed to protect and yet avoid a dangerous overdose, using a form of iodine where the amount can be readily measured is best. So although the seaweed should be protective, it will likely difficult or impossible to determine how much of it to eat. How much will give you protection and not constitute and over dose? I don’t think there is a very good answer to that question.

      If you look at my more recent, second blog post on this subject, you will see a protocol for using Betadine. If I am in danger of exposure and do not have a measured form of potassium iodine available I plan to use the Betadine method. It has been used by others in the past with good results. It is pretty easy to measure and control the dose.

      That said, I know of no reason not to eat some seaweed and/or kelp on a daily basis. Apparently, those who did and who were in the vicinity of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima fared much better than those who did not. And it provides other health benefits, as well. We eat quite a bit of seaweed in our household. It makes a wonderful stock for making homemade miso soup. Delicious!

      To your health!

      Jeff Bell

  6. Nora
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, thank you for the very interesting and extremely helpful information. I will definitely share it with my readers. What the people of Japan are going through is unfathomable. I do not know of anyone, but my thoughts and prayers go to everyone involved with the tragedy.

    • Jeff Bell
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      I too have been praying for the people of Japan.

      What I really hope for, besides lessening the suffering of those directly affect, is that humankind finally gets it that we have no business playing around with nuclear energy. We have no idea how to use it safely. And we should not go near it until some time way off in the future if and when we do. If we learn that lesson from this disaster, it will not make up for all the death and suffering. But at least those who have suffered and died and those who will suffer and die from this reckless and arrogant behavior will not have done completely in vain.

      I pray for peace and a little more sanity in this world.

  7. Michael Ericsson
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Jeff:
    I live in the Seattle, WA area. I have been studying about the Fukushima Disaster and how the Radioactivity has now spread around the world in Both Hemispheres! The USA has been unevenly covered with Hot Particles showing up in many diverse locations now (May 2012). Apparently, the West Coast from Alaska to California has been dosed with higher concentrations. If it’s true that the Radioactive Particles are even more concentrated when it Rains, we certainly have a potential problem here in the Pacific Northwest! My biggest concern is When (Not If) the Number 4 Reactor Blows at Fukushima. The Radioactivity Concentration Levels will be greatly magnified and severely affect the entire planet.

    I recently purchased several bottles of Icelandic Kelp Tablets. Each Tablet contains: Kelp – 41MG and Iodine – 225 mcg. In your estimation, what is a Safe Daily Dosage to take along with Potassium Gluconate 599MG and Chelated Magnesium 250MG?

    This will be for General Daily Health. I realize that the MCG amount may not nearly be enough as an effective dosage. How much should I take plus my wife and children?

    ALSO – What should be the amounts taken when Reactor 4 goes?
    (Emergency Levels)?

    Thank You!

    Most Respectfully,

    M.J. Ericsson
    mediamaxx@comcast.net

    • Jeff Bell
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Michael, You ask a couple of great questions. Let me do my best to address them, realizing 2 things: 1. There is tremendous variation amoung human beings, including age, metabolic factors, body weight, and more. So it is a little dicey to spout of “optimal amounts” of various crucial minerals, nutrients, etc. without knowing the specifics of the person involved. 2. When it comes to radioactive disasters, it is a little tough to predict exactly what concentrations will wind up where and for how long.

      And by the way, I agree with you that we are going to see a lot more radioactive contamination from the Fukushima disaster than we have so far. That seems inevitable, even if those in authority do everything right from this point forward. There have already been far too many mistakes made.

      First of all, most experts agree that for most adults, when it comes to iodine supplementation around 225 mcg of bioavailable iodine is about right. Ideally, one uses that amount for a few weeks or a month or so, then gets tested to see if adjustments are warranted. But the consensus is that 225mcg is a safe and effective daily amount.

      And the amounts you mention for magnesium and potassium gluconate seem reasonable, as well.

      That said, you may do better for the magnesium using the “transdermal magnesium therapy” protocols. There are absorption issues with almost all other methods of magnesium supplementation. I have a whole blog post devoted to this: http://myhealthoptimizer.com/a-true-miracle-mineral-magnesium/

      Also, please keep in mind that although the things you mention are good for general health, they will not help much if there is a significant release and exposure of ionizing radiation, which unfortunately seems inevitable given what is going on with the Fukushima disaster.

      If there you are in an area where there is a significant rise due to a big release or similar event, for up to 10 days you will want to take something like 2 each Iosat Potassium Iodide tablets a day. That will protect your thyroid gland from the radioactive iodine that will be a big component of the released material. Please read all of my blog posts on the subject to get the other supporting protocols and to get the cautions about overdosing on iodine. They are serious because the overdose consequences can be serious.

      In any case, the iodine will not protect against the radioactive cesium 137 that will comprise a good part of the contamination. If you open any one of my blogs, then search for radiation you will find a lot of information about protection beyond iodine.

      Here is one other recommendation to consider: If you have the means and are truly motivated to survive this mess in good health, consider relocating to the Southern Hemisphere. A number of trusted experts have shown why the prevailing environmental conditions indicate that exposures in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly South America, will almost certainly be a lot less severe than they will be anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

      I hope this response helps.

      To your great health!

      Jeff Bell

  8. Jeff Bell
    Posted October 16, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I am not sure if you are making a comment, asking a question, or… Can you please clarify? Thanks!

    To your great health!

    Jeff Bell

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