Why potassium iodide tablets are crucial for surviving a nuclear disaster

Why potassium iodide tablets are crucial for surviving a nuclear disaster

Nuclear accidents can happen unexpectedly, at any moment. In fact, the rise of nuclear power plants, which are operational in 32 countries and supply around 10% of the world’s electricity, has increased the likelihood of such accidents occurring. [1] The war in Ukraine, and the highly reckless and provocative actions of Western Nation have also exasperated this risk.

According to a statistical study conducted after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, nuclear reactors have an estimated failure rate of about 1 per 3,704 reactor years. The results of the study suggest that “nuclear power reactors cannot be guaranteed to be operated without major accidents,” so nations that depend on nuclear energy should always be prepared for nuclear emergencies. [2]

Another factor that ups the risk of a nuclear disaster is the existence of nuclear weapons. Nuclear states like Russia, the U.S., China, France and the U.K. make up the top 5 countries with the most nuclear warheads. [3] With political tensions intensifying between some of these nations, many are starting to fear the possibility of a nuclear war erupting. [4]   

If not a war, a nuclear weapon accident could be the cause of massive property damage and significant human exposure to radiation. Nuclear weapon accidents, dubbed “Broken Arrows” by the U.S. military, are well-documented in America and different parts of the world.

In one of the earliest Broken Arrows (1957) recorded in the U.S., a B-36 aircraft flying over Albuquerque accidentally dropped the hydrogen bomb it was transporting to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Although the bomb did not set off thanks to the absence of its fissionable component, its conventional explosives did detonate, leaving a 25 feet-wide crater where it fell. Fortunately, this incident did not claim any human casualties and radioactive material did not spread beyond one mile of the crater. [5]

Incidents like this and the Fukushima meltdown, which was triggered by an unexpected natural disaster, highlight the importance of being prepared for nuclear emergencies. But how do you prepare for such events and what are the possible impacts of a nuclear accident on your health? 

The dangers of nuclear radiation and exposure to radioactive iodine 

According to the National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP), one of the greatest public safety concerns after a nuclear power plant accident is “the sudden release of large quantities of radionuclides into the environment.” [6] A radionuclide is an atom with an unstable nucleus that emits gamma rays – a form of electromagnetic radiation – as it breaks down. [7]

Radionuclides can enter the human body in various ways, such as via absorption, inhalation or ingestion. Prolonged exposure to these radioactive contaminants is said to cause birth defects and irreversible DNA damage that leads to cancer. Meanwhile, exposure to high levels of radioactive material causes radiation sickness, which can be fatal. [8]

While different radionuclides can be released into the environment following a nuclear power plant accident, the NCRP singled out one substance as particularly worrying: radioactive iodine. In its 1977 report, the council noted that isotopes of radioactive iodine “could affect large numbers of people soon after [a nuclear] incident.”

Radioactive iodine is a byproduct of nuclear fission, specifically the fission of uranium atoms. Nuclear power plants use uranium fuel to produce steam for electricity generation. [9] Nuclear bombs, on the other hand, use uranium as an explosive material. Hence, any severe accident involving either will result in widespread radioactive iodine contamination. [10]

Unlike the other radionuclides formed during the nuclear fission reaction, radioactive iodine can easily convert to a vapor state, so it readily mixes with air once released. This means that during a nuclear disaster, the risk of breathing in radioactive iodine vapor is extremely high.

Radioactive iodine can also exist in particulate form (e.g., cesium iodide and sodium iodide) or dissolve in water to form a toxic solution. In these forms, radioactive iodine can contaminate drinking water, soil and food crops, which is why the NCRP and other health experts consider it a major cause for concern in the event of a nuclear catastrophe.

Once it enters your body, radioactive iodine can accumulate in your thyroid gland, the butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of your neck. Your thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that help regulate your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, metabolism and many other vital bodily functions. [11] 

Normally, your thyroid gland is saturated with non-radioactive iodine, an essential mineral you get from food (or supplements). Non-radioactive iodine is a critical element in the production of thyroid hormones. [12] Unfortunately, your thyroid cannot distinguish between non-radioactive and radioactive iodine; it just absorbs whatever iodine is in your blood.

Absorbing too much radioactive iodine is detrimental to your overall health, not just your thyroid. As reported by a study on radiation exposure after the 1986 Chernobyl accident, people who have been exposed to high levels of radioactive iodine can develop thyroid cancer after several years. [13] Infants and children are said to have the highest risk since their thyroids are more sensitive to radiation than those of adults. [14]

Thyroid cancer causes swelling in the neck, hoarseness, difficulty breathing or swallowing and chronic cough. It can also make you feel fatigued, cause weight loss or, depending on the type, spread to other parts of the body. Metastatic thyroid cancer commonly spreads to the lungs, liver and bones. [15] 

The history and benefits of potassium iodide 

Because of the ease with which radioactive iodine can enter your body during a nuclear disaster, it is important to protect your thyroid – the organ most susceptible to radiation injury – from its harmful effects. A simple way of doing that is to make sure you have adequate amounts of non-radioactive iodine saturating your thyroid. The easiest means of achieving this is taking non-radioactive iodine in the form of potassium iodide.

Potassium iodide is a salt that works as a thyroid blocking agent. It is also routinely added to table salt to make it “iodized.” Potassium iodide tablets are a crucial item to have in the event of a nuclear disaster because they offer the best protection for your thyroid. In fact, according to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), potassium iodide tablets can be a reasonable and inexpensive supplement to have during in-place sheltering and evacuation. [16]

Potassium iodide tablets work by providing you with a stable form of non-radioactive iodine that can easily be taken up by your thyroid gland. When used according to label instructions, potassium iodide can lower your risk of thyroid injury by blocking radioactive iodine from accumulating in your thyroid. [17] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one dose of potassium iodide offers protection for 24 hours. [18]

The importance of a thyroid blocking agent like potassium iodide as a protective measure was first established following a nuclear weapon accident in 1954. On the 1st of March that year, the U.S. conducted its largest ever nuclear bomb test on an island in the Pacific. A design error made the bomb’s explosion two-and-a-half times larger than expected, and over 1,000x as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. [19]

As a consequence, radioactive fallout spread to a wide area and radioactive material was detected in several other countries apart from the United States. Although residents of the island directly affected were evacuated quickly, most of them developed some form of thyroid disease, including cancer, within 20 years. Subsequent studies revealed that despite various radionuclides being released into the atmosphere, only radioactive iodine was responsible for the health problems observed in the island’s residents. [20]

Potassium iodide was first endorsed by scientists as the “ideal thyroid blocking agent” in 1957, but it was only recognized as a radioprotective medicine for nuclear emergencies in 1977. The following year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed a request for the production and storage of potassium iodide, but no tablets were manufactured that year. The NRC and the nuclear power industry stubbornly resisted the idea of stockpiling potassium iodide until the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986.

On the 26th of April, 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Russian Chernobyl Nuclear Station exploded due to human error and a flawed reactor design. This explosion is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in the history of the world. [21] The value of potassium iodide as a thyroid-protective medication was proven in this incident, as a report by the NRC suggests that residents in the nearby Pripyat region who were given the medicine showed safe levels of radioactive iodine exposure when they were tested in a relocation center. [22][23]

An article published in the journal Thyroid also reported similar findings in Poland, which was also affected by the nuclear fallout. According to the article, 16 million people received one dose of potassium iodide following the Chernobyl accident. Aside from very rare occurrences of side effects, the Polish people were able to have an estimated 40% reduction in their projected thyroid radiation dose. [24]

After the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan in 2011, the Japanese government also distributed potassium iodide tablets to evacuation centers as a precautionary measure against radiation exposure. [25] A decade later, an article published in AJN, American Journal of Nursing examined lessons learned from the disaster and highlighted the effectiveness of potassium iodide as a protective measure against radiation exposure. The authors also emphasized the importance of nurses ensuring the availability, accessibility and distribution of potassium iodide within U.S. nuclear power plant emergency planning zones before disaster strikes. [26]

To recap, here are the 4 uses of potassium iodide tablets during a nuclear emergency:

  • Deliver a soluble form of stable iodine
  • Protect your thyroid from radiation injury
  • Offer 24-hour protection from the harmful effects of radioactive iodine
  • Block absorption of radioactive iodine by your thyroid 

Where to get FDA-approved potassium iodide tablets 

In 1979, the U.S. had its worst nuclear power plant accident with the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania. This prompted Virginia-based manufacturer, Anbex, Inc. to develop iOSAT, a thyroid blocking medicine consisting of potassium iodide. iOSAT is the only full-strength potassium iodide tablet approved by the FDA that can be sold in the United States.

To help you and your family prepare for nuclear emergencies, the Health Ranger Store is offering 100% genuine, FDA-approved iOSAT Potassium Iodide Tablets purchased directly from the manufacturer. Each pack of this must-have survival medicine contains 14 tablets, and each tablet contains 130 milligrams (mg) of potassium iodide. Each tablet is also scored so you can cut it into smaller pieces, in case you need a lower dose.

In the event of a nuclear disaster, iOSAT Potassium Iodide Tablets can help protect your thyroid from radiation injury by blocking its absorption of radioactive iodine. In fact, one iOSAT tablet provides 24 hours of thyroid protection. However, it is important to remember that iOSAT only protects the thyroid and only blocks radioactive iodine. It cannot influence the activities of other radionuclides. iOSAT also cannot cure thyroid disorders.

If you’re not at risk of exposure to radioactive iodine, DO NOT take iOSAT Potassium Iodide Tablets to avoid unwanted consequences. You also should not take more than the recommended dose of potassium iodide. Doing so does not offer more protection from radioactive iodine and may cause adverse effects. Iodized salt or foods naturally rich in iodine also do not contain enough iodine to protect your thyroid in case of a nuclear emergency, so do not use them as a substitute for potassium iodide.

Ensure the safety and survival of your whole family in the event of nuclear disaster by stocking up on FDA-approved iOSAT potassium iodide tablets! 


[1] https://world-nuclear.org

[2] https://www.tandfonline.com

[3] https://worldpopulationreview.com

[4] https://www.cnbc.com

[5] https://www.atomicheritage.org

[6] https://books.google.com.ph

[7] https://www.unep.org

[8] https://www.livescience.com

[9] https://www.vdh.virginia.gov

[10] https://nap.nationalacademies.org

[11] https://www.endocrineweb.com

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

[13] https://www.frontiersin.org

[14] https://www.thyroid.org

[15] https://moffitt.org

[16] https://www.nrc.gov

[17] https://emergency.cdc.gov

[18] https://www.cdc.gov

[19] https://www.ctbto.org

[20] https://www.nukepills.com

[21] https://world-nuclear.org

[22] https://www.nrc.gov

[23] https://www.self.com

[24] https://www.liebertpub.com

[25] https://www.scientificamerican.com

[26] https://journals.lww.com