A joint statement from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Thyroid Association, The Endocrine Society and the Society of Nuclear Medicine says the release of radiation from an earthquake and tsunami-stricken nuclear complex in Japan has raised fears of radiation exposure to populations in North America from the potential plume of radioactivity crossing the Pacific Ocean.
"The principal radiation source of concern, in regard to impact on health, is radioactive iodine including iodine-131, which presents a special risk to health because exposure of the thyroid to high levels may lead to development of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer years later," the statement says. "Radioactive iodine uptake to the thyroid can be blocked by taking potassium iodide tablets, but this should not be taken unless there is a clear risk of exposure to high levels of radioactive iodine."
The physician groups discourage needlessly purchasing or hoarding of potassium iodide in the United States, and do not support the ingestion of potassium iodide at this time.
Potassium iodide can cause allergic reactions, skin rashes, salivary gland inflammation, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism in a small percentage of people, the statement says.