Louise O'Connor, Naturopath + Wellness Coach

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit the north eastern coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu near the port city of Sendai on March 11, 2011 and the subsequent tsunami will be go down in history as causing one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

Nuclear experts say it could take many years to learn the extent of the damage from the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown on human health, food supplies and marine life.

The Japanese nuclear crisis released dangerous radioactive particles into the atmosphere. This includes radioactive iodine known as iodine-131. There is no safe dose of radioactive iodine-131. Iodine-131 is rapidly absorbed by the body and it has a half-life of eight days. This means it is only half as dangerous after eight days. Iodine-131 only leaves the body as it decays radioactively.

When dangerous radioactive iodine is released into the atmosphere the thyroid gland is at particular risk from irradiation. The thyroid gland does not differentiate between non radioactive and radioactive iodine. The danger is greater for those who are lacking iodine. If you suffer an iodine deficiency your body can absorb hazardous radioactive iodine. The radioactive iodine then builds up in the thyroid gland. This has the serious potential to damage the thyroid gland and the long term effect of exposure is thyroid cancer.

Avoiding contact with radioactive iodine is the first step to minimising the threat of radioactive iodine on your thyroid. However exposure may be largely unavoidable in view of the fact that the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power has been quickly carried world wide on the prevailing jet streams.

In normal conditions the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a daily iodine intake of 150 micrograms per day for adults and 250 micrograms per day for women during pregnancy.

For acute exposure to radioactive iodine in a fallout zone a higher amount of iodine is recommended. The WHO recommends a daily dose of 130milligrams for a short period of time before or at the beginning of exposure to radioactive iodine. Boosting iodine levels with a safe form of iodine helps block uptake of radioactive iodine. This acute dose is usually achieved with a liquid iodine supplement containing potassium iodide (KI). Potassium iodide is a salt of the stable form of iodine. Potassium iodide has generally been found to be safe when administered at the recommended dose. Do not use topical antiseptic iodine products such as Betadine.

Potassium iodide does not protect your body against other radioactive substances such as cesium-137. This radioactive isotope was also released into the atmosphere from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power meltdown. This toxic compound persists in the environment as it has a half life of thirty years. If you have concerns regarding the impact of radiation exposure on your health you should discuss these with your healthcare practitioner.

The events in Japan have highlighted the importance of making sure you are not iodine deficient. When your body is low in iodine your body can absorb harmful radioactive iodine from the environment.

Author's Bio: 

Louise O’Connor, Naturopath + Wellness Coach. Author The Natural Thyroid Diet: The 4-Week Plan to Living Well, Living Vibrantly