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Potassium iodide ( KI) works only to prevent the thyroid from uptaking radioactive iodine. It is not a general radioprotective agent.
The compound KI is routinely added to table salt, sodium chloride (NaCl), to iodize the salt. Iodine is an element that is taken from the bloodstream by the thyroid gland and is necessary for its proper functioning. The thyroid gland does not discriminate between radioactive and nonradioactive iodine. KI has been erroneously represented as a "magic bullet" of radiation protection. KI, if taken properly, only protects against internal radiation from radioiodine taken into the body. It will NOT protect against external radiation or internal radiation from radionuclides other than radioiodine. This salt, if taken either before or very soon after a radioiodine intake and if taken in the proper dose, will block the uptake of radioiodine by the thyroid. KI can be in the form of a pill or a supersaturated solution. The recommended daily dosage for an adult is 130 milligrams. If the thyroid absorbs all the iodine that it needs from the nonradioactive KI, then the radioactive iodine will not be absorbed and will be eliminated from the body mostly by way of the urine. Reducing the amount of radioiodine absorbed in the thyroid will reduce the dose received by the thyroid, thereby reducing the risks of thyroid cancer. Even though there have been minimal side effects (e.g., gastrointestinal effects or rashes) from the use of KI, this substance should only be taken on the advice of health care providers. Again, KI will only help reduce the effects of radioiodine taken into the body and not from other radionuclides. The only possible sources of large radioiodine releases are from a nuclear weapons denotation and a catastrophic accident in an operating nuclear reactor. Therefore, KI has no protective value from a "dirty bomb" or a dispersion of spent nuclear fuel.
The only possible sources of large radioiodine releases are from a nuclear weapons denotation and a catastrophic accident in an operating nuclear reactor. Therefore, KI has no protective value from a "dirty bomb" or a dispersion of spent nuclear fuel.