Precautionary Measures Against Potential Radiation From Japan – Iodine Supplementation

March 16, 2011


As this thread on paleohacks comments,

“It seems like we are going to be struck by radiation any time now…”

I’d like to consider this an exaggeration, and there are a lot of people a heck of a lot closer to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant than I am, in Vancouver, Canada. However, there are several things that give me pause:

During the whole H1N1 swine-flu ordeal, the media sensationalism was almost soothing. It shifts your brain into logic mode, to battle the rampant hyperbole. But when health officials keep insisting that we’ll all be okay, that’s when I start to worry. And clearly I’m not the only one. People throughout British Columbia and the West Coast of the US have been stocking up on any form of potassium iodide they can find. And let me tell you, iodine, especially in the potassium iodide form is hard to find around here.

Tracking down potassium iodide

My thinking was, better safe than sorry. I figured I’d track down some potassium iodide and would hopefully feel silly in a few days that I went through the trouble. After doing so though, it makes me wonder what would happen if there was some sort of nuclear disaster on this continent. Almost none of the pharmacies in the Vancouver area carry potassium iodide. The ones that did were sold out. I did manage to find one place that had it, and they were limiting how much you could buy. I heard on the news that a woman in the Okanagan bought 1,000 tablets. I think limiting how much you can buy is a good idea. You shouldn’t buy more than you can use, especially when stock is apparently so low. I also heard rumors that there  were people trying to profit by selling iodine tablets in front of pharmacies at $100 a pop. While calling around, I was told that the warehouses were out of stock, and everyone was backordered. The local Whole Foods stores have sold out of every iodine containing supplement they carry.

Potassium Iodide safety confusion

I managed to get some tablets for myself, which I hope I won’t have to use. The information out there on usage isn’t very clear. First of all, government authorities are saying not to take potassium iodide  unless they tell us otherwise. Apparently the supplements can cause harm, and if we do take them, we should only do so for a few days because the dose is so high. Some say that if you have thyroid problems, iodine supplementation can potentially be bad for you. On that paleohacks forum, “Dr. K” said he’s informed his patients to get a 3 month supply. The place where I bought the potassium iodide was selling a 2 week supply. Apparently adults need a 130mg dose if all hell breaks loose. And one dose is enough to prevent thyroid radioiodine uptake for 24 hours. But how many days consecutively is it safe to take the tablets? I don’t know.

Natural iodine supplementation

And then there’s the natural iodine supplementation that some have been recommending as a harmless safety precaution. Although again, if you have thyroid problems that may or may not be a good idea, depending on what you read – and not everyone knows if they have thyroid problems. Some people recommend blue-green algae like spirulina and chlorella, but according to Whole Foods staff, although those have a lot of great properties, if it’s iodine you’re after, you should really stick to kelp. One kelp supplement that looked promising, A. Vogel Kelpasan, isn’t exactly paleo. Non-medicinal ingredients include: Microcrystalline cellulose, pregelatinized starch, corn starch, soy polysaccharide, cottonseed oil hydrogenated. But does that even matter, relative to radiation?

And of course there are other iodine supplements available such as Lugol’s and Iodoral, both of which have also been mentioned on paleohacks, that some people use for thyroid support.

I don’t really have an answer or recommendation, unfortunately. Again, I figure better safe than sorry, it doesn’t hurt to have some potassium iodide and kelp on hand, just in case. This is more just a post on what’s been occupying my thoughts the last few days. Other than of course the ongoing tragedy and suffering in Japan.

If you’re on the West Coast, are you taking any precautions?

(I’ve written an update here: Iodine Supplementation – Update )

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