With all that is going on in Japan right now, the world is focused on the radiation that appears to be leaking from the crippled nuclear power plants. This is scary because we know that radiation is very harmful to us - and as a result, some people are panicking who maybe don't need to panic.
While the Japanese who are close to the incident do have reason to be fearful, those of us in North America are at very little risk. According to the experts who have been interviewed, even if radiation does get into the atmosphere, by the time it would blow over to the west coast of NA, the radiation levels would be minimal. So, is the rush on potassium iodine tablets justified? Not likely.
Iodine tablets don't protect you from overall radiation exposure. They protect your thyroid from damage, which is important, but only one part of your body that can be damaged. And, it can't reverse any effects - it is only preventative. But another thing to remember is that it is a salt and considered a medication - and it can be harmful to some people, so it shouldn't be taken without consulting with your physician.
According to the CDC:
Taking KI may be harmful for some people because of the high levels of iodine in this medicine. You should not take KI if
• you know you are allergic to iodine (If you are unsure about this, consult your doctor. A seafood or shellfish allergy does not necessarily mean that you are allergic to iodine.) or
• you have certain skin disorders (such as dermatitis herpetiformis or urticaria vasculitis).
People with thyroid disease (for example, multinodular goiter, Graves’ disease, or autoimmune thyroiditis) may be treated with KI. This should happen under careful supervision of a doctor, especially if dosing lasts for more than a few days.
In all cases, talk to your doctor if you are not sure whether to take KI.
For more information on potassium iodine, check out these sites: