Anti-radiation pills

Anti Radiation pills for UPSC
  • Anti-radiation pills, or Potassium iodide (KI), tablets are known to provide some protection in cases of radiation exposure.
  • They contain non-radioactive iodine and can help block absorption, and subsequent concentration, of radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland.


  • After a radiation leak, radioactive iodine floats through the air and then contaminates food, water and soil.
  • External Exposure
    • While radioactive iodine is deposited during external exposure, it can be removed using warm water and soap.
    • The bigger risk is inhaling it.
  • Internal Exposure
    • Internal exposure, or irradiation, occurs when radioactive iodine enters the body and accumulates in the thyroid gland.
    • The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce hormones to regulate the body’s metabolism.
    • The thyroid gland has no way of telling radioactive from non-radioactive iodine.
  • Potassium iodide (KI) tablets rely on this to achieve ‘thyroid blocking’.

How do these pills work?

  • KI pills are taken a few hours before or soon after radiation exposure to ensure that non-radioactive iodine in the medicine is absorbed quickly to make the thyroid “full”.
  • Because KI contains so much non-radioactive iodine, the thyroid becomes full and cannot absorb any more iodine – either stable or radioactive – for the next 24 hours.
  • But, KI pills are preventive only and cannot reverse any damage done by radiation to the thyroid gland.
  • Once the thyroid gland absorbs radioactive iodine, those exposed are at a high risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Effectiveness of KI pills

  • Anti-radiation pills do not provide 100% protection.
  • The effectiveness of KI also depends on how much radioactive iodine gets into the body and how quickly it is absorbed into the body
  • Also, the pills are not meant for everybody. They are recommended for people under 40 years of age.
  • While it can protect the thyroid against radioactive iodine, it cannot protect other organs against radiation contamination.

Latest News

  • With fears of a nuclear disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant growing, the European Union has decided to pre-emptively supply 5.5 million anti-radiation pills distributed among residents in the vicinity.


  1. Indian Express

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