Japan, Radiation and Iodine

Is radiation from Japan going to reach the United States, and if so what to do?

Model of Thyroxine (T4) molecule, a thyroid hormone
Model of Thyroxine (T4) molecule, a thyroid hormone

First, our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to out to the Japanese people.

Here in the U.S. we need to consider the very real possibility of radiation exposure over the next few days or weeks.

Odds are, when it rains in California this weekend, and then across the rest of the U.S., there will be higher-than-normal levels of radiation in the rain due to nuclear fallout from Japan. Odds are, based on what’s happening right now, it won’t be high enough levels to do immediate damage, or cause immediate symptoms, but it would be prudent to protect your thyroid gland by taking iodine. It would also be prudent not to hang out in the rain, and not to drink rainwater or water plants with it. Put the dog’s water bowl inside. Even if it’s not raining, being downwind of nuclear fallout will increase radiation levels in the atmosphere.

What is Iodine?

Iodine is a non-metallic, inorganic element that is essential to human health, and essential for good thyroid gland function. Nuclear fallout tends to contain radioactive iodine. Because the thyroid glands like iodine, this makes them particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of radiation from nuclear fallout. If iodine levels are adequate, and the iodine receptors in the thyroid gland are occupied, radioactive iodine is less of a hazard.

The thyroid glands of infants and children are especially susceptible to the effects of radiation so it’s important that they be protected.

How to Increase Iodine Levels

The most common iodine supplement is potassium iodide, available at most drugstores, but the run on iodine has begun, so you may not be able to find it. Potassium iodide is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to minimize harm from radiation exposure.

David Brownstein MD, an expert on the thyroid and iodine, specifically recommends the following relative to the possibility of radiation exposure over the next few days or weeks: “Since I have been recommending most people take 6-50mg of iodine per day, I would [now] suggest taking the average Japanese dose of 13mg/day. This is one Iodoral pill or one Iodozyme HP pill or two drops of Lugol’s iodine. I do not believe microgram doses will do the trick.”

Contact your pediatrician for the correct dosage of iodine for infants, children and nursing mothers.

What else can you do to increase iodine levels if you can’t find potassium iodide? There are plenty of good iodine supplements at your local health food store, including those mentioned by Dr. Brownstein above. Dried kelp is a good source of iodine.

Do Not Overdo it with Iodine!

Iodine is one of those essential elements that can have harmful effects if taken in excess, especially if you are already iodine-deficient and take large amounts at one time. It’s best to take it in small amounts over a few days. According to Dr. Brownstein, a dose of iodine is cleared out of the body within 24 to 72 hours.

Excess iodine can cause a racing heart and anxiety, kind of like the feeling you get from drinking too much coffee, or guzzling one of those highly caffeinated fizzy drinks.

If you have any doubts or concerns about taking iodine, talk to your doctor.

More Information

A quick and simple new iodine urine test can tell you if your iodine levels are low.

For more information about the thyroid, read What Your Doctor May Not Tell  You about Thyroid by John R. Lee MD and Virginia Hopkins.

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