The risk of radiation poisoning can be mitigated by taking Potassium iodide (KI), raising the total amount of iodine in the body and therefore reducing uptake and retention in tissues and lowering the relative proportion of radioactive iodine (Iodine-131). In simple words – by taking Potassium iodide tablets person gets so filled with non-radioactive iodine that radioiodine has nowhere to go and body rejects it.
Iodine-131 is a major uranium fission product, comprising nearly 3% of the total products of fission. The primary risk from exposure to high levels of 131I is the chance occurrence of radiogenic thyroid cancer in later life. Other risks include the possibility of non-cancerous growths and thyroiditis.
Patients receiving 131I radioiodine treatment are warned not to have sexual intercourse for one month (or shorter, depending on dose given), and women are told not to become pregnant for six months afterwards. “This is because a theoretical risk to a developing fetus exists, even though the amount of radioactivity retained may be small and there is no medical proof of an actual risk from radioiodine treatment. Such a precaution would essentially eliminate direct fetal exposure to radioactivity and markedly reduce the possibility of conception with sperm that might theoretically have been damaged by exposure to radioiodine.” These guidelines vary from hospital to hospital and will depend also on the dose of radiation given. One also advises not to hug or hold children when the radiation is still high, and a one or two metre distance to others may be recommended.1
Potassium iodide cannot protect against any other causes of radiation poisoning, nor can it provide any degree of protection against dirty bombs that produce radionuclides other than radioisotopes of iodine.1 Before administering Potassium iodide see recommended dosage (dosage may vary).