Why people rush for iodine tablets over nuclear, cancer risk


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European countries have seen stocks of iodine fly off the shelves over fears it will be needed to counter thyroid cancer risks if the Russian invasion of Ukraine causes a nuclear accident.

France said it would send 2.5 million doses of the chemical compound to Ukraine after Russian forces seized the former Chernobyl nuclear site and damaged Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest atomic power station.

Here are some facts about iodine.

What is iodine?

Stable iodine – potassium iodide – enables the thyroid gland in the neck to produce hormones essential for brain development and vital body functions. The body does not make iodine, so it is essential in the diet.

Can iodine help in the event of a nuclear accident?

A serious incident at a nuclear facility would release radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. If inhaled or consumed in contaminated food, it may increase the risk of thyroid cancer, an effect observed after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Stable, non-radioactive iodine tablets help prevent the concentration of radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland. Saturated like a sponge with stable iodine, the gland can no longer capture the radioactive element, which is then naturally expelled from the body through urine.

Is iodine effective in all circumstances?

Iodine tablets do not protect against other radioactive elements. They do not provide radiation immunity and are not a permanent cure.

The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) told AFP that iodine only protects the thyroid and that the most important thing to do in the event of a nuclear accident is to take shelter in a building Hard.

The tablets should be taken at specific times, ideally one hour before radiation exposure and no later than 6-12 hours after exposure.

They are particularly recommended for pregnant women, babies, children and young people.

“It is useless to take iodine tablets for prophylaxis”, warns the ASN. “It is unnecessary and may cause adverse reactions or allergies.”

Taking too much iodine can cause thyroid dysfunction and damage the heart and kidneys.

Last week Croatian doctors warned of the dangers of taking iodine without proper precautions.

Belgians were also warned of the risks but reportedly rushed to buy the pills nonetheless.

How readily available are iodine pills?

Iodine tablets are only given on the advice of the authorities. Chemists do not provide them to the public in other circumstances.

In France, for example, there have been five iodine distribution campaigns since 1997, in response to accidental radioactive leaks from nuclear sites.

Germany boosts iodine supply in case of nuclear accident

© 2022 AFP

Quote: Why people rush for iodine tablets over nuclear, cancer risk (2022, March 8) Retrieved March 9, 2022 from tablets-nuclear-cancer.html

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