Experts on Radiation Exposure, Thyroid Cancer, and Potassium Iodide

Many authorities have made statements about the benefits of Potassium Iodide following a nuclear accident.  

American Academy of Pediatrics

April 3, 2003 News Release“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that households within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant keep potassium iodide (KI) on hand to protect the thyroid in the event of an accidental or intentional release of radioactive iodines (“radioiodines”) into the environment. Schools and child care facilities within the same radius also should have immediate access to KI. It may be prudent to consider stockpiling KI within a larger radius because of more distant windborne fallout”.

Dept of Homeland Security –

“Consider keeping potassium iodide in your emergency kit, learn what the appropriate doses are for each of your family members”.

FEMA – Nuclear Power Plant Preparedness Document

“The thyroid gland is vulnerable to the uptake of radioactive iodine. If a radiological release occurs at a nuclear power plant, States may decide to provide the public with a stable iodine, potassium iodide, which saturates the thyroid and protects it from the uptake of radioactive iodine. Such a protective action is at the option of State, and in some cases, local government”.


In December 2001, the Food and Drug Administration released their final guidance on Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies. Quote – “FDA maintains that KI is a safe and effective means by which to prevent radioiodine uptake by the thyroid gland, under certain specified conditions of use, and thereby obviate the risk of thyroid cancer in the event of a radiation emergency”. FDA December 2001

World Health Organization

In 1999 the World Health Organization (WHO) updated their Guidelines for Iodine Prophylaxis Following Nuclear Accidents. Quote – “Stable iodine administered before, or promptly after, intake of raddioactive iodine can block or reduce the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid. Intake of radioactive iodine by inhalation begins when the radioactive cloud arrives at a location and continues during the passage of the cloud. Action to implement stable iodine prophylaxis, and thereby reduce the dose to the thyroid, will be required promptly”. WHO 1999 This link opens as a .pdf file so you will need Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view it. You may download this handy program for free by clicking here.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is amending its emergency planning regulations governing the domestic licensing of production and utilization facilities. The final rule requires that consideration be given to including potassium iodide (KI) as a protective measure for the general public that would supplement sheltering and evacuation. KI would help prevent thyroid cancers in the unlikely event of a major release of radioactivity from a nuclear power plant“. – NRC January 2001

“At last count, some 1,800 children in the former Soviet Union have developed thyroid cancer as a result of the [Chernobyl] accident. Almost all were very young-in the womb or under 2 years old-at the time of exposure. In adults, thyroid cancer is usually slow-growing, but in the Chernobyl children, it has proved to be aggressive. In more than two-thirds of cases, the malignancy has spread beyond the thyroid by the time of surgery. The disease has a long latency period, so thousands more cases are expected in coming decades”. – in a letter from Peter G. Crane, former attorney for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The American Thyroid Association

In November 2001, The American Thyroid Association endorsed the usage of Potassium Iodide for Radiation Emergencies. “The American Thyroid Association endorses the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s December 2000 action requiring states and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to look into having potassium iodide (KI) stockpiled and available for populations at risk for exposure to radioactive iodine from a nuclear emergency.” – ATA November 30, 2001

“A radius of 20 miles [KI distribution around nuclear plants] is required by the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 (P.L.107-188) but this is much too restricted in light of the Chernobyl experience”. – In response to the National Academy of Sciences Study of Strategies for KI Distribution and Administration.

“…both an expert committee of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Thyroid Association endorse the use of KI and have confidence in its safety…”Letter from ATA President to Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.

“The seminal event that opened the world’s eyes to the importance of KI distribution was the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident, releasing a fallout cloud that spread radioactive iodine and other radionuclides throughout eastern and central Europe. Starting a few years later, infants and children who had been exposed to the fallout were diagnosed with an unusual and aggressive form of thyroid cancer, except in Poland where the government had distributed KI pills”. From an ATA news summary titled, Experts Discuss Potassium Iodide Distribution in Case of Nuclear Incident (PDF document)

Public Citizen

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in congress, the executive branch and the courts. Their website covers are aspects of consumer protection including their statement on The NRC’s Failure to Stockpile Potassium Iodide & Protect the Public Health and Safety. “For over 25 years, the use of blocking agents such as potassium iodide to prevent the accumulation of radioiodine in the thyroid gland has been known. The effectiveness of potassium iodide administration for thyroid gland protection in the event of releases of radioiodine was recognized by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement in 1977. The Food and Drug Administration authorized use of potassium iodide as a thyroid-blocking agent for the general public in December 1978.” – Public Citizen 2001

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit partnership of scientists and citizens combining rigorous scientific analysis, innovative policy development and effective citizen advocacy to achieve practical environmental solutions. Read their release entitled, “Precaution for Nuclear Accident a Stitch in Time That Saves Way More Than Nine”. Quote – “A January decision is expected by the Commissioner of Public Health for the State of Massachusetts on whether to recommend that potassium iodide be stockpiled to protect public health in event of an accident at a nuclear facility. The Union of Concerned Scientists joins many others from the environmental and medical communities in urging the Commissioner, Dr. Howard Koh, to recommend this crucial precaution.” – Union of Concerned Scientists December 22, 1999

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