- 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.
- 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.