Iodine tablet in a nuclear attack: usefulness, purchase, in the pharmacy?

IODINE TABLETS. The Russian army has taken control of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Faced with the fear of a nuclear attack, the purchase of iodine tablets is increasing in pharmacies in Europe, including in eastern France. What is the importance of a nuclear accident? Against radioactivity? Can we buy it freely?

[Mise à jour le 5 mars 2022 à 09h59] For the threat of nuclear attack of Russian President Vladimir Putin at war with Ukraine, demands to iodine tablets (potassium iodide) increase in pharmacies from Eastern Europe and even in the east of France. More so since theRussian army took control of Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine on March 4, the largest in Europe. The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron said friday “extreme” Worried from risks about nuclear safety “due to the Russian invasion” and “will propose in the coming hours (…) concrete measures to ensure that the security of the five Ukrainian nuclear sites† What is iodine used for in a nuclear accident? Against the radioactivity † Can we buy free † explanation.

What is the use of iodine in a nuclear attack?

In the event of a nuclear accident,radioactive iodine can be released and then can find yourself in the body, through the respiratory tract (by inhalation) or after ingesting contaminated liquids or food. however, the thyroid (on the front of the neck) is able to: store iodine to saturation. When this gland fixes radioactive iodine, there is a increased risk of cancer of the thyroid. This is why in the event of a nuclear accident, and if radioactive iodine is released, authorities may recommend: take stable (non-radioactive) iodine, available as tablets of potassium iodide, to protect the thyroid from radiation. This allows the thyroid to be saturated with stable iodine (through a dose approximately 1000 times the body’s daily requirement) and thus avoids the absorption of radioactive iodine. In the event of a nuclear accident, however, various radioactive substances can be released. Stable iodine is therefore only useful in the release of radioactive iodine, and stable iodine tablets do not provide no protection against other radioactive substances† Finally, iodine tablets should only be taken on the express recommendation of the competent authorities, because the tablets ingested are not effective only for a period of about 24h and with optimal effect after 2 hours. That is why no need to take iodine tablets for prevention, consuming it without instructions from the authorities, which can expose you to health risks. At the same time, the recommendation to take shelter remains the most effective solution and takes precedence over the intake of iodine.

What are the effects of iodine on the body?

Stable iodine is a natural trace element that is absolutely necessary for our health. It comes in the composition of hormones produced by the thyroid gland, after fixing inhaled or ingested iodine on the latter. The hormones produced are secreted into the bloodstream by the thyroid gland and affect the metabolism of various organs. They play a vital role, especially in growth and development. In order to function, the thyroid requires a small amount of natural iodine (on average 150 micrograms per day), which comes mainly from food, but also in a smaller amount from the air we breathe (mainly present in maritime areas). In excess in the body, iodine is quickly evacuated through the urine.

Saturated with stable iodine, the thyroid gland is unable to fix radioactive iodine.

What is the effect of iodine against radioactivity?

Stable iodine tablets (potassium iodide) protect the thyroid gland against radioactive contamination. A serious event such as an accident or a nuclear attack can lead to the release of radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. When inhaled or ingested, this radioelement causes the exposed population to be irradiated, putting them at significant risk of thyroid cancer. To prevent the thyroid from fixing radioactive iodine, taking stable iodine in tablets and in large quantities (for example: 2 tablets of 65 mg for an adult) is an effective means of prevention. Saturated with stable iodine, the thyroid is indeed unable to fix radioactive iodine, which protects individuals from possible thyroid cancer. From tablets being with stable iodine spread preventively among the population living near nuclear installations† Stable iodine, on the other hand, does not protect against other radioactive elements that could be released in a nuclear accident or attack.

What are the dangers of iodine tablets?

Iodine tablets can cause some: Side effects like a metallic taste in mouth, nausea and vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, rash, restlessness, and palpitations. Rarely, taking potassium iodide tablets can cause thyroid disorders such as: hyperthyroidism manifest by a increased heart rate, sweating, anxiety, insomnia, tremors, or severe weight loss. That side effects are usually transient and not serious, and they disappear spontaneously once the iodine has been eliminated from the body. However, if the problem persists or if the condition worsens, it is imperative to see a doctor. In some exceptional cases, the absorption of iodine can lead to hypersensitivity reactions (redness, oedema, neck pain, lacrimation, chills, swelling of the salivary glands, fever).

Quotas apply to iodine stocks and not all pharmacies have them all the time.

Where to buy iodine tablets?

Stable iodine tablets 65 mg are manufactured by the Central Army Pharmacy† In France, stable iodine can be provided free of charge by the competent authorities (for example: by post) or by pharmacies, only for populations exposed to nuclear risk which means located within a radius of 20 km around a nuclear power plant† Since the supply of these iodine tablets is regulated, this can only be done on presentation of proof of residence or a receipt issued by the government. Stocks are limited and not all pharmacies have them all the time. For the population not affected by this regulatory procedure, it is nevertheless possible to obtain iodine tablets from pharmacies with sufficient stock and for a fee. to note that to cope with a possible serious nuclear accident, the State has sufficient reserves to supply the entire population. In all cases, it is the prefect who gives the instructions for taking iodineby all existing means that allow the dissemination of information (fire/police loudspeakers, sirens, television, radio, etc.).

As a reminder, in the event of a nuclear alarm:

  • Take shelter quickly in a hard building
  • Stay informed through the media and social networks
  • Don’t take your kids out of school
  • Limit your calls
  • Take the stable iodine tablets according to the prefect’s instructions and according to the dosage
  • Prepare for a possible evacuation

Can I buy iodine tablets in the pharmacy?

In principle, only people who live within a radius of 20 km from nuclear power stations can collect iodine tablets from pharmacies, during government-organised distribution actions or when they move into the municipality concerned, this under the responsibility of the prefects. Stocks are indeed limited and reserved as a priority for this high-risk population. However, if supply permits (wholesale orders), it is possible to buy iodine tablets over the counter from pharmacies that carry them.

Are iodine tablets available without a prescription?

Potassium iodide is an unlisted drug that: therefore no medical prescription required is delivered. In France and for persons or establishments located within a radius of 20 km around a nuclear power plant, boxes of stable iodine are dispensed free of charge and without a prescription by pharmacies in the sectors concerned on simple presentation of proof of address and/or by completing a cancellation letter. For the others people (not affected by a nuclear risk) special), it is possible to get these tablets in pharmacies without a prescriptiondepending on available stocks and pay them.

Are there any contraindications to the use of iodine?

Contraindications to taking iodine tablets are exceptional. Since the risk of a hypersensitivity reaction is relatively low, it is not a strict contraindication to take iodine tablets if necessary. However, a person who is allergic to iodine or has a thyroid pathology may, as a precautionary measure, seek advice from their doctor, assessing the risk associated with taking stable iodine tablets on a case-by-case basis.