Who's At Risk?
How great is your risk of exposure to harmful radioactive iodine (iodine-131)?
a silent killer
Radioactive iodine, also known as Iodine-131 or radioiodine, is a dangerous "by-product" of nuclear reactions. Normally, we never come in contact with this element. But in a radiological accident, like a nuclear power plant disaster, a large number of people may be exposed to it through radioactive fallout, posing a serious public health threat.
Iodine-131 attacks the thyroid gland, causing deadly thyroid cancer and other thyroid diseases. Prompt dosing with potassium iodide can protect your thyroid gland from radioactive iodine.
Next: Nuclear power plants
Those within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant face the greatest danger from radiological incidents. Modern facilities are designed for a high degree of safety, but are still subject to equipment failure, acts of terrorism or war and natural disasters.
In the USA, emergency management officials keep a supply of potassium iodide on hand for citizens living within a 10 miles of a nuclear power plant.
Live just outside of the 10 mile radius? You are safer, but the closer you are, the greater your risk.
Next: Industrial Radiation
Facilities for nuclear manufacturing, waste storage and the reprocessing of nuclear fuel also pose a risk.
In 1993, a cloud of radioactive gas was released into the environment from a Russian reprocessing complex when a tank exploded during cleaning. In 2004, a highly redioactive solution was discovered to be leaking from a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the UK.
Next: Radioactive Fallout
Being far from an incident doesn't guarantee your safety. Currents in the air and oceans can carry nuclear contamination many miles from its point of origin
After the Fukushima Daiichi incident in 2011, trace amounts of radioiodine were detected in rainwater as far away as Massachusetts!
This map shows the widespread distribution of fallout from the nuclear bomb tests in the Nevada desert during the 1950's.People who were living in the Midwest at that time have a higher incidence of thyroid and other cancers - believed to be a result of this exposure.
Next: Babies and Children
Children, babies and adults under 40
Because they are still developing, infants and children and unborn babies face the highest risk of developing thyroid cancer if exposed to radioactive iodine.
Young adults are also at risk.
Next: Terrorism: Are you a target?
The War on Terror
Terrorism has become much more prevalent in today's world than it once was. This map shows the number of terrorist incidents, by country, from the 1970's through 2009.
Next: Government under attack
Country and state capitols and government buildings are often targeted by terrorist groups.
Next: High Population Areas
High population and high-profile areas, including tourist attractions, are also at elevated risk of terrorist activity.
Next: Targeting our Infrastructure
Important comonents of a country's infrastructure, including airports, seaports, industrial centers, petroleum refineries,power plants, communication technological and finaicial hubs, and areas important to the food and water supply, also are at risk of attack - by terrorists or by adversaries in times of war.
Next: The Danger from Nuclear Weapons
This map shows the nuclear strike capabilities and potential targets of Russia during the 1900's cold war era. Dark areas represent locations expected to receive lethal fallout.
Next: Military Facilities
In a war, military targets, such as military bases, strategic missile sites and weapons depots, are primary bombing targets for opposing forces. Civilians living near these facilities are also at risk.
Consider keeping a supply of potassium iodide on hand if you
- Live near a nuclear power plant, weapon manufacturing or waste/fuel processing facility
These are vulnerable to accidents, attack and natural disasters.
- Live in an area which may be the target of terrorists or hostile forces
Terrorists strike at densely-populated and/or highly visible targets to do the greatest amount of damage. "Do it yourself" terrorist weapons like homemade bombs and "dirty bombs" are NOT likely to contain radioiodine. However larger terrorist organizations may have the money and the means to get their hands on more sophisticated weaponry.
Potassium iodide does not require a prescription and is available for purchase over the counter or online. Taken within the first 3-4 hours after exposure, it can protect you and your family from harmful radioactive iodine found in nuclear fallout.