Home World News what is the use of iodine in the face of nuclear risk

what is the use of iodine in the face of nuclear risk

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Following a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday March 6, President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his “serious concern” for the security of nuclear sites after the March 4 bombing of the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhya.

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In order to guard against the effects of a possible nuclear accident, the French ambassador to Ukraine, Étienne de Poncins, confirmed on the BFMTV channel the forthcoming dispatch of “2.5 million doses of iodine”.

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Across Europe, the latest events are causing concern. The number of searches for the word “iodine” is skyrocketing on the Internet and some consumers are tempted to buy iodine tablets from pharmacies.

► What is iodine used for?

When exposed to radiation, radioactive iodine may attach to the thyroid, leading to an increased risk of cancer. Preventive intake of stable iodine prevents radioactive iodine from binding to the thyroid. It will thus be easily eliminated by the body, especially through the urine.

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►When and how to take stable iodine?

According to the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), iodine must be ingested at the earliest one hour before exposure to radioactivity, and at the latest within six to twelve hours following. Earlier, their effectiveness will be significantly reduced. Later, beyond twenty-four hours, their side effects are more serious than the expected benefits”.

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The Nuclear Safety Agency estimates that about one tablet, swallowed or dissolved in a glass of water, is enough to protect a teenager or an adult effectively for two days. “After forty-eight hours, the protective effect is only 70-80%, or even less”, adds the Criirad (Commission for independent research and information on radioactivity).

► Where can I get it?

The distribution of stable iodine is regulated in France. It is ensured at departmental and regional level. It is therefore not possible to obtain it freely in pharmacies. “People living within a radius of 10 to 20 km around nuclear power plants are invited to collect iodine tablets from pharmacies during regular distribution campaigns or when they move in”, explains the IRSN.

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In 2019, the government launched a vast campaign to make iodine tablets available to the 2.2 million people and more than 200,000 establishments, businesses, schools, administrations in all the territories located near the 19 power plants French nuclear. In the event of an accident, the State has sufficient stocks of tablets “to be able to cover the needs of the entire French population”explains the Nuclear Safety Authority.

► What precautions should be taken?

Stable iodine tablets do not protect against all the dangers of exposure to radioactivity. (Iodine) does not protect against other radioactive elements (such as cesium 134 or cesium 137) potentially released”, explains the IRSN. In addition, taking it without medical advice is strongly discouraged because it can cause thyroid and cardiac side effects. It is also strongly recommended that mothers stop breastfeeding after taking stable iodine as it could cause serious complications for the breastfed newborn.

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