On January 13, 2018, Americans in Hawaii received the following phone notification: “Emergency Alert – Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound.” What do you do at this moment? Do you run? Hide? Stay in place? Most people are not prepared for a situation like this. In 2022, this is a daily reality with growing world tensions between the U.S. and other hostile countries. It is scary to think about, but there are many steps that you can take to prepare for one. In this article, we focus on a very interesting and effective one: iodine pills.
What are the chances of an attack?
Many experts describe the time we are currently in as the “Second Cold War.” Tensions are high. Based on the idea of mutually assured destruction, we hope no country will use nuclear weapons. However, the chance is never zero, and we must stay prepared. As stability in countries that have nuclear weapons decreases, the chance of nuclear war increases.
What are iodine/iodide pills?
Iodine is a mineral found in nature. The negatively charged form of iodine is iodide. These are essentially the same, however, we consume iodide as it is more abundant in nature. It is found in many foods and even salt in the form of potassium iodide (KI) or sodium iodide (NaI). Iodide in small amounts is essential for human health and is a precursor for hormones created by your thyroid gland. Without it, we would simply die.
In summary, iodine is very important to your health, and you consume it in many foods. There are some misconceptions that iodine is harmful to the body. These are false. When you hear “iodine/iodide pills,” they are technically referring to potassium iodide.
How can iodine pills help protect you from a nuclear missile?
Interestingly, thyroid cells are the only cells in the body that can absorb iodine. Your thyroid cells make the T3 and T4 hormones that control metabolism by catalyzing a reaction that involves iodine.
When a nuclear event occurs, radioactive iodine will be released into the air. Thus, when you breathe air in, you may inhale these radioactive iodine particles. Additionally, after a nuclear incident, food and water are contaminated. Taking iodine pills (or tablets) will cause normal iodine to be absorbed by the thyroid gland. Imagine your thyroid “full” with regular iodine, so the harmful radioactive type cannot be absorbed. This will decrease the risk of thyroid cancer later in life.
Always be sure to consult a healthcare professional before taking iodine pills. Please also look at the full list of recommendations from the CDC website.
Not the only form of protection
It is important to note that iodine pills alone will not save you from a nuclear attack. The biggest threat to your safety and health after a nuclear attack or accident is nuclear fallout after the event. Taking iodine pills is a great level of defense against thyroid cancer, however, you should also limit your radiation exposure. Some quick tips to do so are:
- stay in a small space with limited exposure to the outside air
- go underground in a basement if possible
- drink and eat non-contaminated items
For more information regarding how to prepare and survive a nuclear incident, check out our blog posts.