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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11 Responses to "Japan, Radiation and Iodine"

  1. Maria Orphan   March 15, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Several years ago, i had my thyroid gland removed because of nodules (one was cancerous). Now i take a thyroid hormone replacement daily. Should I be concerned and would taking an iodine supplement be recommended? I had heard that I should avoid excess iodine.

  2. Denise Shreeve   March 15, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Thank you for this information. I am also wondering what effect the Japanese disaster will have on our ocean waters and inhabitants. They have been dousing all four nuclear plants with sea water, which will probably end up back in the ocean. Now they are hoping that prevailing winds will blow any radioactive clouds out to sea. I hope they test their fish for contamination.

  3. Joseph Shindoll   March 15, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Virginia, thank you for sharing this valuable information!

  4. cindy   March 15, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Virginia, excellent article in response to Japan’s tragedy. There is nothing like being prepared in time of disaster. I hope many will take advantage of this information.

    Keep up your great works.

  5. Jo Phillips   March 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Brown seaweeds such as kelp and kombu contain sodium alginate as well as iodine. The iodine is in a much less dangerous form, yet still serves to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine and the sodium alginate will bind with other radioactive particles such as strontium and cesium and remove them harmlessly from the body. As always, natural is best.

  6. Betty   March 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Thank you for such valuable information. I had already heard that the U.S. Military was giving iodine to the troops that were close to the area. We have sea kelp and intend to take it for prevention. Thanks again so much.

  7. Biz Grubb   March 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Does anyone know about effects on Australia? Who to contact with the background to factor in the effects of prevailing winds and sea currents?

  8. Bettina   March 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I am in the same boat as many, not able to get Iodine. I do have a bag of kelp powder which I add to most of the food I prepare, so that I get my children to take it. But it says that 1/4 spoon is something like 65 mcg, the taste is pretty bad so it is nothing that you eat a large amount of.
    Will kelp really make a difference is such quantities??

  9. Virginia Hopkins   March 19, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    The fact that you’ve been routinely adding kelp to your food over time means that your iodine levels are probably fine. The goal is to keep the gas tank filled, so to speak. When iodine levels are adequate, the radioactive iodine can’t get in there as easily to take its place.

  10. Ann Haffner   October 30, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Because I tested low -normal for my thyroid, I have been taking 1 teaspoon daily of a mixture of 1 drop losol Iodine (Wellness Resources) to 2 ounces purified water. Because of your recommendation I have increased it to l teaspoon of 2 drops/2 ounces water. The earlier mixture of 1 drop/2 ounces water is from directions on the Iosol Iodine bottle. It says that gives 153 mcg Iodine or 102% of the daily value. I am eighty years old.

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