Ever since news of damage to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant reached the U.S., Americans have been stockpiling potassium iodide (KI)—the only treatment available for radiation exposure. Before scouring the Internet for the hemisphere’s last available bottle, the FDA cautions U.S. citizens to consider these facts:
1. You Don’t Need It
Only people who have been contaminated by radioactive iodine (one of the isotopes being released by the damaged reactors), or are at risk of contamination, should take the potassium iodide pills. At the moment, experts agree that the radiation making its way into the atmosphere around the U.S. is far too diluted to present a risk to Americans anywhere in the country.
2. It Offers Limited Protection
Potassium iodide blocks one specific isotope—radioactive iodine—from invading the thyroid gland. There’s no evidence, however, that potassium iodide is effective in preventing contamination in other parts of the body or in blocking other radioactive elements that have escaped from Fukushima. (To treat exposure elsewhere in the body, there are several more effective FDA-approved drugs available.)
3. They May Be Fakes
Just three potassium iodide products are FDA-approved: Iosat (by Anbex), ThyroSafe (by Recipharm AB) and ThyroShield (by Fleming & Company Pharmaceuticals). In an effort to capitalize on Americans’ growing anxiety about possible radiation exposure, counterfeit KI pills are popping up on the market across the country. Any non-FDA-approved KI products advertising the ability to treat radiation exposure easily and “naturally”—or that claim to block contamination anywhere in the body other than the thyroid—should be avoided.