Here Comes Fallout! By Chuck Fenwick

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Here Comes Fallout! (Now, What was it I was supposed to Take?)

By Chuck Fenwick Director, Medical Corps, Courtesy of TACDA

What is the big deal about KIO3 or KI? You know it is for nuclear preparedness, but just why is it so important?

Of all the radioactive isotopes and radioactive particles that can come from a nuclear reaction, radioactive iodine 131 (I-131) poisoning is one of the most lethal. The good news is that damage to the thyroid from exposure to I-131 can be prevented. Keep in mind these facts about your thyroid:

1) Your thyroid runs on iodine.
2) Your thyroid is a pig.
3) Your thyroid is stupid.

Your thyroid runs on iodine and will absorb all it can until it is absolutely full. This fullness is called saturation or blockade. However, your thyroid does not know the difference between good iodine and bad iodine. Good iodine is taken up by the thyroid in the form of potassium iodate (KI03) or potassium iodide (KI). Bad iodine, I-131, is a radioisotope of iodine which is produced in nuclear reactions such as a bomb or nuclear power plant. I-131 is what we call a beta emitter and if you get it on your skin it will burn you in much the same way as when you get bad sunburn. It has a half-life of roughly 8 days (8.01 to 8.07). One of the reasons spent fuel rods are stored in pools of water for months at a time, is that they will be off-gassing I-131 for roughly 10 half-lives (approximately 80 days).

If you are caught unprotected and downwind from a nuclear reaction and the plume or cloud of fallout reaches you, your thyroid will absorb this bad iodine. You now have sunburn in your thyroid and it is not going to go away. Eventually that sunburn in your thyroid can give you cancer (the FDA doesn’t like me saying “will” give you cancer).

Now that your thyroid has absorbed the bad iodine, is there anything you can do to clean the thyroid out?

The answer is no. There are a few things that will help, but in reality you now have this radioactive sunburn in your thyroid and you are in big trouble. All of the good iodine or Prussian Blue or activated charcoal we can throw at the problem is not going to help. Depending on your age it will… uh.. may take you several months to several years to develop cancer of the thyroid. That is the bad news. The good news is coming up.

The Good News:

Iodine--including I-131 and the other iodine isotopes--are from the halogen group. They act like a gas, which combines with things such as soil or metal. In a plume they float along and when conditions are right they “plate out” and come down like microscopic rain where growing plants, animals, and humans absorb them. We may breathe, eat or drink I-131 and even absorb it through the skin. And yes, your pets are at risk too, as well as your livestock. In fact, it is best not to eat exposed plants or food animals for at least 90 days, and this includes eggs and milk. Remember, your thyroid doesn’t care if it is bad or good iodine, nor does it care where it comes from.

Let’s get back to the “I’m going to die” part. When taken for the proper length of time and in the proper amounts, KI03 and KI act as “thyroid blockers”. When the thyroid is filled to capacity with good iodine, the bad iodine is blocked from entering. If you had KIO3 or KI on hand and had taken it before the plume or cloud reached you, then your thyroid would have been about 99% saturated with good iodine. The bad iodine would then biologically slough from your body through natural bodily functions. The bad iodine will only affect those who haven’t prepared.

Will the government be able to provide KI or KIO3 to you after (or just before) exposure to fallout?

Maybe. If a power plant melts down or in a small terrorist attack, government officials may have time to get the iodine blockers to you. If it is a full-scale nuclear attack, however, members of the state and federal government will be too occupied with personal survival to help anyone except themselves. Keep in mind that a nuclear attack always produces an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) and quite likely all electrical circuits will be destroyed or damaged. It will then be impossible to print or distribute any printed material through normal media processes. In fact, that new digital safe where you keep your family papers, guns, money and medicines will never work again, and if your KIO3 is in there, then your thyroid is in big trouble.

KIO3 versus KI:

Actually there is no versus. They are both thyroid blockers and both will blockade the thyroid. Both KI and KIO3 are FDA approved and inspected.

KIO3 is more heat tolerant than KI; therefore, KIO3 is used in most of the world’s iodized salt—not so the United States. When stored in a dark, cool place, KIO3 has a much longer shelf life than KI. Because it is so stable, Medical Corps stamps an 8 to 10 year shelf life on the label, and has given a lifetime replacement warranty on the product. If your KI03 has been damaged or is beyond the warranty date, send a picture of your bottle, and we will replace the 90-tablet bottle for $5.00, and the 200-tablet bottle for $10.

How much should you have on hand?

First and foremost, you need to have a several weeks’ supply of KI or KIO3 on hand in storage, now. If we have a nuclear event, the chances of you getting it after the event are remote to nonexistent. Another point to consider: If we have one nuclear event we will most likely have others over the next several days. That is the reason we produce multi-dose bottles. We had to ask ourselves, "How much is enough?"

How do you Take KI and KIO3?

KIO3 can be taken in tablet form or sprinkled on food or dissolved in drinks. It is not bitter and children won't throw it up--which is the point. However, taking KIO3 on an empty stomach feels like taking an aspirin on an empty stomach so take it with food or water. If food or water is not handy then by all means don't delay--just swallow or chew up the proper dose. KI, on the other hand, is terribly bitter and the taste must be disguised. This from the FDA on disguising the bitter taste of KI: The mixture of potassium iodide with raspberry syrup disguises the taste of potassium iodide best. The mixtures of potassium iodide with low fat chocolate milk, orange juice, and flat soda (for example, cola) generally have an acceptable taste. Low fat white milk and water did not hide the salty taste of potassium iodide.

When should you take a thyroid blocker?

I'm supposed to say that the authorities will tell you when to take the KIO3 or KI, but if there is an EMP it will be impossible for them to relay this information, and most likely the authorities will either be in a shelter or dead--so you really are on your own. A gas mask will not do the job properly. You would have to live, eat, drink and sleep in the mask for many days. Also, human skin will absorb radioactive iodine even if you do wear a mask. The only way to completely avoid I-131 is to stay in a self-contained blast shelter that has a proper air filtration system. Thyroid blockers are most effective if taken 8 to 12 hours before exposure. They can be started 8 to 12 hours after exposure with fairly good results, but the earlier the better, as any amount of radioactive iodine is bad for your thyroid.

Caution! KIO3 in tablet form is for nuclear emergencies, only, and is not a supplement for thyroid health. You want your thyroid to function normally during peacetime and the amount of iodine you receive in your food and salt should be adequate for normal thyroid function. Do not take a thyroid blocker unless you expect an imminent exposure to radioactive fallout. Medical Corps' KIO3 will block the thyroid from working, which is exactly what you want to happen during a nuclear emergency. The directions are on the bottle and are very important.

How long should you take a thyroid blocker?

You will need to take your KIO3 or KI for 3 to 14 days depending on the event. For a period of 80 days after the last known nuclear event, do not drink the milk from cows or goats and eat only canned foods. Small babies should not take a thyroid blocker for longer than 3 days unless absolutely necessary. This means a baby in the womb, too! If pregnant, do not take a thyroid blocker for more than 3 days or nurse your baby while taking the blocker. If babies block their thyroid for longer than 3 days then a doctor may need to give them a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). If your thyroid has been surgically removed then you do not need to take a thyroid blocker.

Read the label for proper dosing. KIO3 comes in 170mg tablets or 85mg tablets. KI comes in 130mg tablets or 65mg tablets so the dosing on the bottle will tell you how much to take and how often.

In conclusion: Buy your KI or KIO3 now so you can concentrate on other things like food, water, shelter and education--especially education. The old civil defense motto was: Knowledge Replaces Fear.

Chuck Fenwick, Director, Medical Corps