When people are exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, it has been found that taking a high dose potassium iodide supplement can protect against developing thyroid cancer. As the thyroid gland can only uptake a certain amount of iodine, if it is saturated with the potassium iodide the uptake of harmful radioactive iodine is prevented.
The medical advised dosage is 130mg potassium iodide for 8 days. This is an extremely high dose, as our normal intake is in micrograms (one thousandths of a mg) and it can have harmful effects if taken for too long. This dosage is intended for short-term use when people are actually exposed to harmful levels of radiation, such as the people close to the reactors in Fukushima.
There is a concern that radiation from the disaster in Japan is travelling across the ocean to the west coast of the United States.
In Australia there is no evidence at this stage that we are exposed to radiation from Fukishima. Whilst it makes sense to be prepared, I don't recommend taking the high dose potassium iodide tablets for 2 reasons. Firstly, the high dosage can have toxic effects, and we need to assess the harm in relation to the level of risk. The World Health Organisation has already reported cases of toxic overdose. The radiation from Fukushima may not reach other parts of the world for a number of weeks, and the protective dose should not be taken for so long. Secondly, if there is a panic buying of potassium iodide tablets it may create a world-wide shortage, making it unavailable to people with confirmed intense exposure.
KEEPING THE THYROID HEALTHY
It makes sense to ensure a healthy thyroid function while we are waiting to assess the extent of the radiation from the nuclear accident. Most people do not have sufficient iodine from dietary sources for healthy thyroid functioning. A Brisbane clinic has been testing people through urinary excretion tests, and have found that most people have only approximately one sixth of the amount of iodine needed in their bodies. Iodine is not only vital for the thyroid gland, it also has other important roles in the body. Women who are iodine deficient, for example, are more at risk of breast cancer.
A safe low-dose longer term supplement aimed at maintaining health makes sense in the current situation. The people most at risk from harmful radiation will be those who have iodine deficiencies.
At our dispensary we have 2 liquid iodine supplements. One is potassium iodide in microgram doses. The other is Ammodine which contains elemental iodine and ammonium iodide, a very bioavailable form of iodide, also in microgram doses. The iodide form in either supplement is appropriate for healthy thyroid functioning. The elemental iodine is the best form for reducing breast cancer risk.
The natural health practitioners in our dispensary can give advice about suitability and dosage of the supplements.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO?
Additionally, supplements such as bee pollen, anti-oxidants and taurine are proven to provide some protection against damage from radioactive iodine.
I suggest avoiding foods imported from Japan from now on. Unfortunately it has been confirmed that there are dangerous levels of radiation in green vegetables and in the water supply in parts of northern Japan.
Eating locally grown and organic foods is recommended. Here on the North Coast we are fortunate to have a year-round growing season. We are also blessed in Lismore to have a produce market, farmers market and organic market.
I also suggest we become involved in any ways we can in anti-nuclear power activities, and encourage investment in renewable energy sources. It is tragic that our thirst for energy has taken a huge human and environmental toll.