UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Radiation and potassium iodide

Keywords: radiation, iodide, KI, thyroid, iodine-131 (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/7/2011 by Ellen Lemkin, MD, PharmD
Click here to contact Ellen Lemkin, MD, PharmD

·      In the event a nuclear power plant accident, people may be exposed to a mixture of radioactive products. The main radionuclides representing health risk are radioactive caesium and radioactive iodine.

·      Iodine-131 is concentrated in the thyroid gland and may eventually lead to development of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.

·      Radioiodine uptake by the thyroid can be blocked by taking potassium iodide (KI) pills or solution, preventing these effects.

·      KI should not be taken in the absence of a clear risk of exposure to a potentially dangerous level of radioactive iodine because KI can cause allergic reactions, skin rashes, salivary gland inflammation, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

·      Since radioactive iodine decays rapidly, current estimates indicate there will not be a hazardous level of reaching the United States from this accident.

·      There are three FDA approved KI products: Iosat, Thyrosafe and ThyroShield.


Pharmacist's Letter April 2011 Vol 27(4) 19-20.