potassium

Protect your health (and your thyroid) with potassium iodide in case of a nuclear emergency or terrorism event

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 by: Dani Veracity
Tags: potassium iodide, terrorist attacks, thyroid gland

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Like September 11, 2001, the 2005 terrorist attacks in London once again reminded the Western hemisphere that even the countries that wield tremendous military power are not immune to terrorism. Though the London attacks did not involve nuclear weapons, there is always the chance that future terrorist attacks will. There is also the chance that a nuclear disaster like Chernobyl might occur.

For those reasons, in November 2004, News Target reminded readers that they should always have some potassium iodide tablets on hand, just in case. However, even though potassium iodide is a necessary measure in the event of a nuclear emergency, there may be some risks associated with taking it and, as is always the case with a drug or supplement, you should make yourself aware of these risks before you take potassium iodide.

Three months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the FDA released its Guidance on Potassium Iodide (KI) as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies, which was designed to prescribe other federal agencies' and also local governments' use of potassium iodide "in the event that radioactive iodine is released into the environment."

According to the FDA, potassium iodide's ability to protect against radioactively-induced cancer is "well-established." The FDA goes on to explain, "When administered in the recommended dose, KI is effective in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in individuals or populations at risk for inhalation or ingestion of radioiodines. KI floods the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine and prevents the uptake of the radioactive molecules, which are subsequently excreted in the urine." In other words, potassium iodide occupies the thyroid gland with "good" iodine, so that it will be too busy to absorb cancer-causing, radioactive iodine. However, as the FDA states, in order for it to be most effective, you must take the right dose of potassium iodide for your age and level of toxic exposure, within three to four hours of exposure and daily until the exposure is over.

Given the way that potassium iodine works to prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, it is obvious that the use of it could potentially cause some negative thyroid effects. In his Complete Guide to Health and Nutrition, Gary Null warns for all potassium iodide users "to be aware that, if you suddenly deluge your perfectly normal thyroid gland with large amounts of supplementary iodine, you can inhibit its ability to produce thyroxine." Thyroid damage from potassium iodide use is unfortunately most common in the elderly. If an elderly person has thyroidal goiter, potassium iodide can cause hyperthyroidism, according to PDR for Nutritional Supplements authors Sheldon Saul Hendle and David Rorvik. In fact, the FDA advises that "anyone over 40 should be treated with KI only if the predicted exposure is high enough to destroy the thyroid and induce lifelong hypothyroidism (thyroid deficiency)."

As with any substance, someone who has never taken potassium iodide before may suddenly develop an allergic reaction. Usually an allergic response to potassium iodide affects the skin the most, taking the form of rashes or acne, reports to Dr. Elson M. Haas. According to an American Cancer Society statement that Professor Ralph W. Moss calls "outdated," excessive use of potassium iodide, even without allergy, may cause pimples, swelling of the glands similar to mumps, runny eyes and nose and impotence. However, in his fairly recent book, Health and Nutrition Secrets, Dr. Russell L. Blaylock echoes the "outdated" American Cancer Society statement: "Higher doses in both adults and babies can cause a greater number of side effects and offers no further protection. In general, the side effects are mild and include swelling of the salivary glands, a metallic taste in the mouth, sore teeth and gums, gastrointestinal upset and/or skin rashes." Though these potential side effects, in my opinion, should not be enough to dissuade you from taking potassium iodide in the event of a nuclear emergency, they should be enough to warn you not to "overdose" yourself on potassium iodide.

On the other hand, there has also been a historical association between potassium iodide and cancer, the very disease that it is supposed to prevent. In the famous case involving anti-cancer tonic creator Harry Hoxsey, a number of cancer specialists testified that potassium iodide, which was one of the ingredients in Hoxsey's mixture, might actually speed up the growth of cancerous tumors. However, many other researchers deny the link between potassium iodide and faster tumor growth.

The Hoxsey case and the beliefs expressed in it have been a source of controversy since the initial popularity of Hoxsey's treatment. Now, in light of recent terrorist attacks on the world and the possibility of attack with radioactive weapons, individual local governments, federal agencies and the medical community as a whole have no choice but to seriously rethink their former opinions on potassium iodide and once again weigh the risks and benefits.

The experts speak on potassium iodide and its effects:

"Potassium iodide and possible nuclear attacks or disasters"

If you leave the fate of your own health up to a bunch of state bureaucrats, you're a fool. Everybody needs to have some potassium iodide on hand to protect themselves from radiation poisoning caused by nuclear accidents or nuclear terrorism. I've been recommending this since 1997, and finally, the feds starting promoting the idea after 9/11. But many states refuse to protect their own citizens. Their plans? "We'll evacuate everybody in time." Sure they will. And my dog can play the piano.
"Some states refuse to distribute potassium iodide, leaving residents vulnerable to nuclear accidents"

KI works best if used within 3 - 4 hours of exposure.
"Frequently Asked Questions on Potassium Iodide" by the FDA

"How potassium iodide works against the effects of a nuclear attack"

In December 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final "Guidance on Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies." The objective of the document is to provide guidance to other Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and to state and local governments regarding the safe and effective use of potassium iodide (KI) as an adjunct to other public health protective measures in the event that radioactive iodine is released into the environment. The adoption and implementation of the recommendations are at the discretion of the state and local governments responsible for developing regional emergency-response plans related to radiation emergencies. The recommendations in the guidance address KI dosage and the projected radiation exposure at which the drug should be used. This guidance updates FDA’s 1982 recommendations.
"Frequently Asked Questions on Potassium Iodide" by the FDA

Less iodine is lost from organically bound sources (as in foods such as kelp) because your body absorbs it better than it does iodine in potassium iodide supplements. There have been no documented cases of iodine poisoning. However, be aware that if you suddenly deluge your perfectly normal thyroid gland with large amounts of supplementary iodine, you can inhibit its ability to produce thyroxine.
Complete Guide Health Nutrition by Gary Null, page 410

1. What does potassium iodide (KI) do?

The effectiveness of KI as a specific blocker of thyroid radioiodine uptake is well established. When administered in the recommended dose, KI is effective in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in individuals or populations at risk for inhalation or ingestion of radioiodines. KI floods the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine and prevents the uptake of the radioactive molecules, which are subsequently excreted in the urine.

2. Can potassium iodide (KI) be used to protect against radiation from bombs other than radioactive iodine?
Potassium iodide ( KI) works only to prevent the thyroid from uptaking radioactive iodine. It is not a general radioprotective agent.

6. What dosages of potassium iodide (KI) should be taken for specific exposure levels?


Exposures greater than 5 cGy:
Birth through 2 mos. - 16 mg.
1 mo. through 3 yrs. - 32 mg.
3 yrs through 18 yrs. - 65 mg. (Adolescents>150 pounds should take adult dose.)
Exposures greater than 10 cGy:
18 yrs through 40 yrs. - 130 mg
Exposures greater than 500 cGy:
Adults over 40 yrs - 130 mg.
"Frequently Asked Questions on Potassium Iodide" by the FDA

Older people with nodular goiters are at risk of developing hyperthyroidism from use of potassium iodide and iodized salt. Potassium iodide and iodized salt may exacerbate symptoms in some with autoimmune thyroiditis.
PDR for Nutritional Supplements by Sheldon Saul Hendle and David Rorvik, page 570

Finally, anyone over 40 should be treated with KI only if the predicted exposure is high enough to destroy the thyroid and induce lifelong hypothyroidism (thyroid deficiency).
"Frequently Asked Questions on Potassium Iodide" by the FDA

"Skin disorders and other problems possibly associated with potassium iodide"

Excessive quantities of iodized salt, taking too many kelp tablets, or overuse of potassium iodide expectorants such as SSKI can cause some problems, but regular elevated intake of iodine is needed to produce toxicity. Some people have allergic reactions, mainly as skin rashes, to iodine products. Iodine supplementation may also worsen acne in some cases..
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 196

Since potassium iodide can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, either the tablet should be crushed and fully dissolved in a volume of orange juice that the baby can consume quickly, or you should use a saturated solution dissolved in orange juice…Higher doses in both adults and babies can cause a greater number of side effects and offers no further protection. In general, the side effects are mild and include swelling of the salivary glands, a metallic taste in the mouth, sore teeth and gums, gastrointestinal upset and/or skin rashes.
Health And Nutrition Secrets by Russell L Blaylock MD, page 375

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