Press Release

March 16, 2011


State Cautions Public Against Taking Potassium Iodide Due to Nuclear Reactor Explosions in Japan

Consult with a doctor before taking potassium iodide

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The damage to nuclear reactors in Japan has raised health and safety concerns for people around the world and in the U.S. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said, “Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.” Based on this, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is cautioning residents not to take potassium iodide (KI) at this time as a prevention medication against possible radiation.

“Residents who take potassium iodide out of concern of possible radiation exposure from the events in Japan could be putting their health at risk due to side effects,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold. “The state health department does not recommend taking potassium iodide at this time and strongly encourages residents to learn about the drug, when to take it and its impact. The department has posted materials on our Web site.”

Potassium iodide is a non-prescription drug that can be used to protect the thyroid gland from an expected exposure to considerably higher levels of radiation. KI cannot protect other parts of the body.

Although usually benign, KI can be harmful to people with allergies to iodine or shellfish, those with certain skin disorders, renal disease, some chronic diseases or those with thyroid problems. Side effects of ingesting potassium iodide can include nausea, upset stomach, rashes, inflammation of the salivary glands and possibly severe allergic reactions.

Again, the Illinois Department of Public Health discourages residents from taking potassium iodide at this time.

For more information about KI, when it should be taken and why, log onto

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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