Potassium Iodate and Dirty Bombs
Inexpensive Nutrient Offers Protection From Radiation
By Jim English
On June 8, 2002, Westchester County, New York officials began to distribute potassium iodine tablets to thousands of residents living within a 10-mile radius of the nearby Indian Point nuclear power plant. (1) The pills, also known as “KI,” prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radiation released from nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants if taken within 24-hours of exposure. Following New York's lead, twelve other states, including Maryland and Vermont, also requested anti-radiation pills from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to distribute to residents living near nuclear reactors. Waiting in line with his two young daughters for their free anti-radiation pills, Westchester County resident Joseph Ruffino told the Associated Press that the whole thing was kind of surreal. “Its hard to believe this is your daily reality these days, but it is.” (2) The New Nuclear Reality More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union the danger of the intentional use of radiation against civilians is greater than at any other time since the end of the Cold War. After a pair of hijacked commercial jetliners toppled the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, engineers scrambled frantically to reassess the integrity of nuclear power plants. Their report, delivered to a special meeting of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) convened in Vienna on November 1, 2001, stated that the world's 1,300 nuclear facilities were vulnerable and not hardened to withstand “acts of war,” such as a deliberate attack with a large, fully-fueled passenger jet. This grim assessment led IAEAs director general, Mohammed ElBaradei, to state that, “There is no sanctuary any more, no safety zone.” (3) In response to this threat and follow-up advisories from US Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding potential terrorist attacks against nuclear power plants, the FBI temporarily closed the air space around all US nuclear power plants in October 2001. (4) Currently the FAA and US military constantly monitor air traffic in proximity to nuclear plants and, while unwilling to expose details that might tip potential attackers, they'are believed to have contingency plans in place for immediate response if a threat is perceived. (5) “Dirty Bombs” In addition to attacks against nuclear power plants a new radiological threat in the form of a “dirty bomb” has entered the modern terror lexicon. Unlike standard nuclear devices a dirty bomb uses conventional explosives, such as dynamite, to spread airborne radiation and contamination across populated areas. Particularly disturbing is the fact that the only way to distinguish a dirty bomb explosion from a regular explosion is to wait until high radiation levels are detected. Also troubling is the fact that dirty bombs don't require expensive manufacturing facilities or specialized talents to assemble. In fact, the hardest part in building a dirty bomb is acquiring the radioactive material. (6) Dirty bombs are not weapons of mass destruction, but weapons of mass disruption. “Claims of thousands of deaths are likely to be exaggerated, but there would be a severe contamination problem and a lot of panic,” says Michael Clark of Britains National Radiological Protection Board. (7) Millions of Unprotected Sources On June 2, 2002 the IAEA issued warnings about the existence of millions of radiation sources that terrorists could easily turn into bombs. (8) The IAEA also reported that controls to prevent radiological materials from being stolen are weak. Such radiological materials include weapons-grade plutonium and uranium, as well as freshly spent nuclear fuel. Also easily available are cobalt 60, strontium 90 and cesium 137—lethal radioactive materials used extensively in equipment found in hospitals, factories and laboratories.
|Dear Dr. Dean, I read your recommendations for anthrax, smallpox, and other biological agents. Do you have any suggestions for radiation or chemical protection? D. Taylor Dear Mrs. Taylor, The 1973 NATO Handbook on the Medical Aspects of NBC Defensive Operations states that “Chelating agents, e.g., EDTA, if administered soon after exposure, are effective in enhancing the elimination of certain radioisotopes. These materials are not effective for radioisotopes which have been incorporated and fixed in organs and tissues, e.g., bone.” (1,2) Thus, oral EDTA (and, perhaps, DMSA) should probably be taken immediately upon learning of potential radiation exposure. Another substance I keep around our house in case of accidental or deliberate nuclear exposure is Potassium Iodate. Potassium iodate was used following public exposure from the radiation released from the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster to block uptake by the body of radioactive iodine (I-131). (3) Potassium Iodate is cheap, it stores well (in excess of ten years), and may not be available if/when it is needed. Potassium iodate should be taken at the time of a nuclear emergency. Depending on the threat it may need to be taken for only 1 to 2 days, or up to several weeks or more in the case of a more severe exposure. For more comprehensive details follow the directions on the bottle or from your physician. Rob Watson, CP's President and CEO, wanted some Potassium iodate for his family and CP employees, and suggested we make it available to others as well. I agree, considering the recent speculation that “suitcase nukes” or radiation-contaminated explosives may be loose in this country. CP now offers this somewhat hard-to-find supplement. I recommend putting it on the shelf until needed. Just as many people keep band-aids and snake bite kits on hand for the possibility that they may need them, I think a family supply of Potassium iodate (and Oral Chelation Complex) is a good idea for a family first aid kit or medicine chest. Ward Dean, MD 1. NATO Handbook on the Medical Aspects of NBC Defensive Operations, Department of the Army Field Manual (FM) 8-9, Washington, D.C., 1973. 2. WHO Guidelines for Iodine Prophylaxis Following Nuclear Accidents—Update 1999. 3. Saxena, A., Qian, N., Kovach, I.M., Kozikowski, A.P., Pang, Y.P, et al. Identification of amino acid residues involved in the binding of Huperzine A to cholinesterase. Protein Sci 1994, 3: 10, 1770-1778.|
Adults: 2 caps.
- Children aged 3-12 years: 1 cap.
- Infants: 1 mo. to 3 years, 1/2 cap;
- Newborns to 1 mo., 1/4 cap. Note: Dosages may be crushed and taken mixed with milk or water.
Precautions While potassium iodate can be taken by a majority of people without any problems, it should only be used in case of a nuclear emergency. Doses in excess of the single (one time only) daily dose listed above should be taken only upon recommendation by a physician or public health authority. Patients should notify their doctor if taking quinidine, captopril, or enalopril, or are sensitive to iodine, or suffer from dermatitis herpetiformis, thyrotoxicosis or kidney problems before taking potassium iodate (or any thyroid blocker). References: 1. www.westchestergov.com/currentnews/potassiumiodidedoc.htm 2. www.cnn.com/2002/US/06/08/nuclear.plant.pills 3. www.newscientist.com/hottopics/tech/ article.jsp@id=99991470 4. Council on Foreign Relations Terrorism Report. http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/ archive/01-112.html 5. U.S. Nuclear Plants After September 11. http://www.princeton.edu/~jwuthnow/JP2-text.htm 6. http://www.terrorismanswers.com/weapons/ dirtybomb2.html 7. www.newscientist.com/hottopics/bioterrorism/bioterrorism.jsp@id=ns99992455_250A 8. Deadly Soviet caesium is missing. New Scientist, June 2002. www.NewScientist.com news service 9. Al-Qaida likely built dirty bomb. Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 1, 2003. http://www.suntimes.com/output/terror/cst-nws-bomb01.html 10. Al-Qaeda close to creating a dirty bomb. The Scotsman, Friday February 7, 2003. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/ 030207/17/dsisy.html. 11. Bacher K, Brans B, Monsieurs M, De Winter F, Dierckx RA, Thierens H. Thyroid uptake and radiation dose after (131)I-lipiodol treatment: is thyroid blocking by potassium iodide necessary? Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2002 Oct;29(10):1311-6. 12. Le Guen B, Hemidy PY, Garcier. French approach for the distribution of iodine tablets in the vicinity of nuclear power plants. Health Phys. 2002 Aug;83(2):293-300. 13. Astbury J, Horsley S, Gent N. Evaluation of a scheme for the pre-distribution of stable iodine (potassium iodate) to the civilian population residing within the imwww.e countermeasures zone of a nuclear submarine construction facility. J Public Health Med. 1999 Dec;21(4):412-4. 14. Pahuja DN, Rajan MG, Borkar AV, Samuel AM. Potassium iodate and its comparison to potassium iodide as a blocker of 131I uptake by the thyroid in rats. Health Phys. 1993 Nov;65(5):545-9.|