March 18, 2011
Preface: This is written for the millions of people around the world who are worried about radiation from the Japanese nuclear reactors. For those who are not worried about radiation from Japan, you can ignore this post, or save it for any future radiation scares closer to home.
How do we protect ourselves against radiation?
It is true that potassium iodide protects against high doses of a certain type of radiation. As the New York Times notes:
Fortunately, an easy form of protection is potassium iodide, a simple compound typically added to table salt to prevent goiter and a form of mental retardation caused by a dietary lack of iodine.
If ingested promptly after a nuclear accident, potassium iodide, in concentrated form, can help reduce the dose of radiation to the thyroid and thus the risk of cancer. In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends that people living within a 10-mile emergency planning zone around a nuclear plant have access to potassium iodide tablets.
Indeed, virtually all suppliers of potassium iodide have sold out, especially after , the U.S. Surgeon General recommended that West Coast residents stock up.
But as I noted yesterday: