Our thyroid gland needs iodine in order to produce vital thyroid hormones. Nature supplies us with the necessary iodine and our thyroid constantly absorbs iodine from the air, from food and from drinks. This natural iodine is not radioactive.
In a nuclear power plant, the nuclear fission process produces radioactive iodine, amongst other radioactive and non-radioactive material. In the event of an accident radioactive iodine may be released. In principle, radioactive iodine possesses the same characteristics as natural iodine. It will therefore be absorbed by the body and stored in the thyroid in the same way as would natural iodine. This has a considerable downside: the radiation of the radioactive iodine can increase the probability of thyroid cancer, especially in children and teenagers.
However, if tablets containing a high concentration of non-radioactive iodine are taken in time, the thyroid gland will be saturated with "healthy" iodine and cannot absorb any radioactive iodine. This so called "iodine blockade" therefore prevents the radioactive iodine from being stored in the thyroid. The important factor is to ensure that the iodine tablets are taken in due time to maximise their effectiveness.
The reactor accident of Chernobyl has been the only nuclear accident that required the implementation of iodine blockade for the protection of the population. In western Poland which at the time was affected by the passing through of the radioactive cloud, more than 10.5 million children and more than 7.5 million adults were treated with iodine. Follow-up examinations have proven the positive effect of iodine blockade.
Among the 18 million people that were treated, no increase in the frequency of thyroid cancer occurrence was observed. However, in Belarus - where iodine blockade was not implemented - unfortunately a hundredfold increase in the usually extremely rare thyroid cancer occurred in children after the Chernobyl accident.
The following pages will tell you about the right time to take iodine tablets, where to obtain them and how to take the tablets correctly.