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On Nuclear Radiation Fallout – And What to Do About It

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Nuclear FalloutJoe Garma is ‘An Average Joe’ who assiduously researches and blogs about the physical and psychological aspects of health at GarmaOnHealth.com*

Confusion reigns supreme. What to do? Lay in some emergency Potassium Iodide for the thyroid? That’s for radioactive Iodine. What about Strontium and Cesium? They’ll be in the radioactive cloud too. Let’s dig in and found out what to do. (Read – What I’m doing!)

Wow, There’s so much confusion about how to protect oneself from radiation. The recent disaster in Japan has made the whole world focus on this, it seems – and appropriately so. People on the west coast of the US are concerned that a radioactive cloud will blow here from Japan and poison them (and in fact prevailing winds and rain may be carrying at least radiactive sprinkles across the globe for as long as the Fukushima plants continue to leak). Potassium Iodide and anything else with “iod” in it quickly flew off the shelves, with stocks restored only recently.

Since I had been blogging about the Japanese tragedy and am considered a health nut, I’ve been peppered with questions and concerns. What I need to do, then, is write this post. The intent is to debunk some stuff, clear up some stuff, and suggest… yes… some stuff.

Is there/could there be fallout? To track for yourself, here’s a radiation map with readings from geiger counter monitoring stations in the US that update literally every minute. The Radiation Alert Level is 100. You can click on ‘messages’ to check for recent alerts. Levels reached 456 CPM in Hawaii last week, for example.

By the way, just a glance at this map will make it obvious that people in the USA could have a problem with a nuclear breach too. We have many nuclear facilities, mostly located in vulnerable and unstable areas because they require large sources of water for cooling, and we have earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and the like. (Right now, two plants in Nebraska are flooded and fighting rising waters, and the EPA is bringing in air monitors as wildfire surrounds the Los Alamos nuclear lab in New Mexico and the population is being evacuated.)

My Disclaimer: I’m not an expert in this subject matter. I’ve just spent some focused time reading and evaluating information provided by TV and the Internet. If you are an expert and wish to correct something I write, please do so in the Comments section below. I do not want to perpetuate falsehoods!

Iodine vs Iodide vs Iodate?

This is the first and most significant confusion point that I’ve observed. Press reports have not differentiated between Iodine, Iodide and Iodate when speaking about what the Japanese government is distributing to its citizens to protect their thyroids; instead, their reporting uses these terms interchangeably.

They are different things.

What’s Iodine?

Perhaps as a child you got a small cut and your mother took a small bottle out of the bathroom cabinet and applied a strange smelling liquid with an eye dropper-like instrument to your cut. That’s Iodine. If you could read back then and looked at the bottle, it might have said “Poison,” because if ingested this type of Iodine makes you sick.

There are forms of iodine, such as homeopathic remedies, that are ingestible. They are not for protecting the thyroid against radiation. but rather for various health issues, including supporting thyroid health.

The pills that the Japanese government distributes to its citizens are NOT Iodine pills. They ARE Potassium Iodide or Potassium Iodate pills. (Read more on this HERE.)

ThyroidWhat’s Iodide?

The chemists among us can read about Iodide ions HERE, but what the rest of us need to know relative to protecting the thyroid from radioactivity is that our Iodide needs to be combined with Potassium; namely, Potassium Iodide (chemical name ‘KI’). You know KI as the ingredient added to your table salt to make it iodized salt. Potassium Iodide is approximately 76.5% iodine.

KI is often used in radio iodine-contamination emergencies (i.e., nuclear accidents) to “block” the thyroid’s uptake of radioiodine, iodine-131, which may be in the air after a nuclear explosion.

From KI4U.com, I get this: Cresson H. Kearny, the author of Nuclear War Survival Skills Original Edition Published September, 1979, by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Facility of the U.S. Department of Energy (Updated and Expanded 1987 Edition) states on page 111:

“There is no medicine that will effectively prevent nuclear radiations from damaging the human body cells that they strike. However, a salt of the elements potassium and iodine, taken orally even in very small quantities 1/2 hour to 1 day before radioactive iodines are swallowed or inhaled, prevents about 99% of the damage to the thyroid gland that otherwise would result. The thyroid gland readily absorbs both non-radioactive and radioactive iodine, and normally it retains much of this element in either or both forms.

When ordinary, non-radioactive iodine is made available in the blood for absorption by the thyroid gland before any radioactive iodine is made available, the gland will absorb and retain so much that it becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine. When saturated, the thyroid can absorb only about l% as much additional iodine, including radioactive forms that later may become available in the blood: then it is said to be blocked. (Excess iodine in the blood is rapidly eliminated by the action of the kidneys.)”

What’s Iodate?

Again, for the chemists in the house, an Iodate is “a conjugate base of iodic acid.” For the rest of us, know that for our purposes, Iodate, like Iodide, needs Potassium to be useful against radiation.

Potassium Iodate (KIO3) has one more molecule of oxygen than its relative, Potassium Iodide (KI). Like KI, it’s designed to block radioiodine. As compared to KI, Potassium Iodate/KIO3 was designed to have greater shelf life, have no bitter taste, and to be cheaper.

It’s  KIO3 that is being supplied to the Japanese people. That said, there is controversy about which is better, KI or KIO3. I’d be happy with either.

When a Nuclear Reactor Leaks – Air, Food and Water Deliver the Harm

Focusing on KI (Potassium Iodide) for no particular reason (I hope) is chemist Leigh Boerner explaining what happens when a nuclear reactor leaks:

“… if a nuclear reactor were to leak, iodine-131 might be in the air. Which people might breathe in. Which could get into their thyroids. Which could cause radiation poisoning in the short term. In the long term, breathing radioactive iodine can cause thyroid cancer, especially in kids.

To minimize the damage, people who may be/have been exposed to radiation from a power plant can take iodide pills. These work by saturating the thyroid with nice, non-radioactive iodide. That way, if any radioactive iodine does come along, the body won’t absorb it – the thyroid can only absorb a finite amount of iodine at a time.

If people can get these pills 48 hours before or eight hours after radiation exposure, it can reduce thyroid uptake of iodine-131 and decrease the risk of radiation-induced thyroid cancer.

I do want to point out that this will ONLY protect against internal iodine radiation poisoning. Not radiation from cesium-137 and strontium-90, extremely dangerous fission products of uranium-235.”

Thank you, Ms. Boerner… you let me segue to the next part of this post, How to Protect Yourself from the Other Radiation Bits – Strontium-90 and Cesium-137.

But first, it’s important to note that after the Chernobyl disaster, radioactive Iodine-131 in milk became a bigger problem than in the air. Check out the study in this pdf file. [In surrounding countries, the Iodine-131 settled in the grass that the cows ate, and was passed on in milk products, where it was especially harmful to children, in the form of subsequent thyroid nodules and cancers. An exception was children in Poland, who were treated prophylactically with KI and were largely protected. As for adults, the study suggests that those over 40 “need to take KI only in the case of a projected large internal radiation dose to the thyroid, to prevent hypothyroidism.”]

The Other Radiation Bits

If we were to have a radiation cloud envelop us, there’s more than our thyroid that would be in danger. Strontium-90 likes to clobber bones and hangs out for a long time. Cesium-137 tends to concentrate in muscles, but can be excreted from the body fairly quickly. (Those two links are very informative, by the way.)


My Googling showed me that there’s a medicine with a funny name that works well at combating Cesium. It’s called “Prussian Blue.” Prussian Blue is available only by prescription. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has included Prussian Blue in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), a special collection of drugs and medical supplies that CDC keeps to treat people in an emergency. You can read about how Prussian Blue works here.

If you don’t have, or can’t get a “script” as part of emergency preparedness, a natural approach might work.

Dr. Loretta Lanphier presents a long and good list of various food, vitamins and herbal cleansers that can assist with radiation detoxification (See “Fighting Radiation Exposure – Naturally”).

The ‘detoxing’ nutrients in this long research-based list include Chlorella and other chlorophyll rich greens, Milk Thistle Extract, Apple Pectin, and Green Tea EGCG; and ‘protective’ nutrients include especially vitamins A,C & E, Calcium-Magnesium, Selenium, and Zinc.

One that I have some experience with is Bentonite, a medicinal mineral-rich clay that’s ingested, and absorbs chemicals and toxins which are then eliminated along with everything else. For washing off external contamination, Dr. Lanphier highly recommends a simple mixture of everyday baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), Bentonite clay and sea salt. Her formula for this:

“Add one pound of good quality sea salt and 1 pound of baking soda to chlorine-free water. Soak for 20 minutes and then rinse with cool water. Adding one pound of bentonite, or other safe clay, to the sea salt and baking soda when soaking will increase the removal of radiation. Some specialists who work with radioactive isotopes use this method to remove radiation from their body. For an abnormally high level of radiation exposure one can use this method three times a week for one month.”

In this article, the Live Well Naturally web site offers a list of natural detoxification measures similar to Dr. Lanpheir’s. Their drinkable formula for internal decontamination is:

“Add 4 ounces of chlorine-free unboiled water to 1 ounce of Bentonite clay. Let sit for 8 hours, stir and drink once a day. Make sure you drink plenty of chlorine-free water throughout the day. You can also use other forms of edible clay such as French green clay.”


As I searched around, I didn’t  find a protective agent or detoxifier specifically tuned to Strontium.  However, my research indicates that many of the therapies beneficial to protect against or detoxify Cesium contamination are useful for Strontium as well. In both cases, the protocols involve detoxification, either through foods, herbs, cleansers, or a combination thereof.

“Modifilan” is an example of a food that detoxifies. Modifilan is a natural dietary supplement extracted from the richest type of brown seaweed – Laminaria japonica. (About 40 pounds of which is reduced down to make one pound of Modifilan.) This nutritional product includes all the important organic elements found in seaweed.

Discovered by scientists after the Chernobyl disaster and applied to some of the Russian people who were poisoned with radioactivity, Modifilan brown seaweed extract was found to help detoxify the body of Strontium and Cesium, and protects the thyroid by covering it with iodine – a triple threat. You can learn more about Modifilan here www.modifilan.com.

What I’m Doing

• I tune into a real-time English-Language Japanese TV news station that reports regularly about the nuclear reactors and conditions in Japan.

• I keep tabs on the National Radiation Map for a real-time update of radiation levels across America. The network also reports on the monitoring sites that are joining the network in Canada, Europe, China, and Japan.

• I stay up to date with HuffPost, Yahoo News and regular old TV.

• I have stored a few days of non-perishable food, many gallons of potable water, flashlights, candles, medicine and stuff: See “Japan Tsunami Creates Health Concerns… Are You Prepared?”

• I’m ready to ingest some expired (in 2008) Potassium Iodate (KIO3) until the new supply of Potassium Iodide my mother bought and mailed to me arrives. (Dear ole Mom.) … Won’t begin any of this, however, unless it’s apparent that a worrisome amount of radioactivity is jumping the Pacific Ocean. (I live on the coast of California.)

• I have Bentonite clay, sea salt and baking soda, and various detox herbs (Chlorella, etc.) ready and waiting.

• Finally, as a sometimes practitioner of yoga, I have the flexibility – if needed – to bend over and kiss my a_ _ goodbye.


Joe Garma


*Joe Garma blogs about the physical and psychological aspects of health at www.GarmaOnhealth.com. His blog is the culmination of over 20 years of insights gained in his own quest to maximize the potential to live a long and strong life. This article is reproduced here with kind permission of the author – © Joe Garma 2010-2011

Thyroid image courtesy of Don Bliss (artist), National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.

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3 thoughts on “On Nuclear Radiation Fallout – And What to Do About It”

  1. carolmiller says:

    Well Joe it seemed to make sense to me and I am just an ordinary New Zealander. I look forward with interest to any professional/scientific comments as to how your research stacks up. Love it.

  2. Sandy10m says:

    First, I’m a physicist working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and there are TONS of scientists watching this situation very closely. If there was a reason for concern, everyone would be notified immediately. Period.

    The biggest mistake you made was using the TV and internet for scientific information. The website you indicated as the basis for your Red Alert is the equivalent of getting scientific information from The National Enquirer. You know, the guys who purport that space aliens abducted and impregnated humans, etc.

    So, what is the real story? You’re right in that radioactive iodine is dangerous stuff, but the same stuff is also used in medical treatments and medical testing (in the right doses). However, taking the potassium iodide (and related) supplements to fight the radioactive iodine is also dangerous. Too much iodine of any kind is very harmful, and even low doses can kill someone who already has thyroid problems (diagnosed or undiagnosed) or other health problems. That’s why the use of iodine treatments is limited to people who are ACTUALLY exposed or ABOUT TO BE exposed (the lesser of the 2 evils, similar to chemo and cancer). And the iodine supplement only helps protect the person against one kind of cancer in one part of the body. It does nothing for the other kinds of cancer in the other parts of the body, or for the other radioactive compounds.

    The most important thing is to put the matter into perspective. How much risk does this radiation situation pose, compared to all the other risks that exist in our lives? If you are a smoker, you are getting MUCH higher levels of radiation EVERY DAY from the tobacco than you would ever get from Fukushima. If you drive a car, your risk of a car accident completely dwarfs the risk from Fukushima (by like 1000 times). The amount of radiation from the sun and from cosmic rays is another constant to consider. How about Radon coming up from the Earth? Seriously, Fukushima, while having great headlines, is not the big threat the news media makes it out to be. Even Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t see a notable change in the life expectancy rates after the atomic bombs, when compared to smoking and obesity.

    There are several credible scientific websites that explain this risk in much greater detail than I will explain here. Try this for starters: http://today.lbl.gov/2011/03/16/lab-scientist-comments-on-radiation-exposure-in-japan/

    Lastly, if you are STILL uptight about this, then go ahead and take the detoxing herbal remedies, if you want. Don’t take the potassium iodide, though, unless you are told to do so by a competent medical authority due to imminent exposure to high doses of radioactive iodine (such as a known large toxic cloud on its way here). Chlorella and clay products might help your body rid itself of the MANY more toxins it is exposed to every day, regardless of Fukushima.

    I hope this helps. The most important thing to do is STOP STRESSING about this. You are doing much more harm with the stress than anything Fukushima is ever going to do to you, even if it completely blows its top tomorrow.

  3. Gerald Campbell PhD says:

    I have castigated one health supplement provider over this very issue already. [Life Extension replied that they believe that any amount of radioactivity is harmful – apparently unless it comes from a Life Extension supplement.] I trust that the readers of this post will be more educated and more reasonable.

    The amount of radio-iodine coming in from Japan is so minute as to be unmeasurable. The amount of K-40, a radioactive isotope of potassium, is not nearly so small. [The Merck Index reports it as 0.012%, which calculates to over 10^15, 1,000,000,000,000,000 X or one quadrillion times as many radioactive atoms in 39 milligrams of potassium compared to the highest measurable amount at any time anywhere in American territory.] Anyone who wants to buy potassium iodide should realize they are getting MORE RADIATION from the K-40 in the potassium iodide pills than whatever radio-iodine making it across the Pacific.

    Further, the amount of iodine in ocean air is huge, relative to the amount of its radioactive isotope. The sea air by itself will suffice to shield your thyroid.

    Not convinced? In one of my research positions a post-doctoral fellow was (stupidly) mouth-pipetting 100 microCuries of radio-iodine (I-125). She fumbled, and wound up getting the entire 100 microCuries in her mouth. She immediately rinsed her mouth, ate a bag of (salted) potato chips, and flew off to San Diego for a week. At the end of the week she presented herself for her mandatory routine thyroid scan – and came up exactly at background. If a week of ocean air and a bag of chips can shield her thyroid from 100 uCi, it will be more than sufficient to protect you from the femto-Curie (1 1-billionth of a microCurie) amounts that may or may not arrive at the California coast.

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