Radiation Poisoning Primer with Treatment Protocol

Radiation Poisoning
There are two important concepts that help in understanding radiation: exposure and contamination. Both can occur when radioactive materials are released in a power plant emergency.

Radioactive materials give off a form of energy that travels in waves or particles. This energy is similar to an x-ray, and can penetrate the body. This exposure ends when the radioactive material is no longer present, for example, after the noble gases disperse. Some of the radioactive material deposited on the ground may also contribute to external exposure. You may hear this referred to as ground shine.

Contamination occurs when radioactive materials (dusts) are deposited on or in an object or person. External contamination occurs when radioactive material or dust comes into contact with a person’s skin hair or clothing.

People who are externally contaminated can become internally contaminated if radioactive materials get into their bodies. This could happen if people swallow or breathe in radioactive materials. Some types of radioactive materials stay in the body and are deposited in different body organs. Other types are eliminated from the body in blood, sweat, urine, and feces.

Limiting skin contamination: Both external and internal contamination can cause exposure to radioactive materials. Removing contaminated clothing and washing off the radioactive materials will minimize exposure from external contamination.

What is ionizing radiation?

  • When certain atoms disintegrate, either naturally or in man-made situations, they release a type of energy called ionizing radiation (IR). This energy can travel as either electromagnetic waves (gamma or X-rays) or as particles (neutrons, beta or alpha).
  • The atoms that emit radiation are called radionuclides.
  • The time required for the energy released by a radionuclide to decrease by half (i.e., the half-life) range from tiny fractions of a second to millions of years depending on the type of atoms.

What are potassium iodide pills?

  • Potassium iodide pills are a source of stable (i.e. non-radioactive) iodine. The thyroid gland requires iodine to produce thyroid hormones. The presence of stable iodine in the body in an appropriate amount blocks the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine (radioiodine), reducing the risk of thyroid cancer which may follow from exposure to radio iodine.
  • Potassium iodide pills are not radiation antidotes. They do not protect against external radiation, or against any other radioactive substances besides radioiodine. They may also cause medical complications for some individuals with poorly functioning kidneys. Potassium iodide should be taken only when there is a clear public health recommendation.

When and why should I take potassium iodide?

  • You should only take potassium iodide when it is recommended by public health authorities. If you are at risk or have been exposed to radioiodine, potassium iodide pills may be given to protect the thyroid gland from the uptake of radioiodine. This can reduce the risk of thyroid cancer in the long run, when given before or shortly after exposure.

Should I take iodized salt to protect myself from radiation?

  • No, you should not take iodized salt to protect yourself from radiation. It is dangerous to take large amounts of iodized salt in order to increase the amount of stable iodine in the body.
  • Increasing one's daily intake of iodized salt will cause more harm than good. The main ingredient of iodized salt is sodium chloride, which is linked with hypertension (high blood pressure) and other medical disorders. The iodine content in iodized salt is too low to prevent uptake of radio iodine.
  • Sodium chloride is acutely toxic in large amounts: even tablespoon quantities of salt repeatedly taken over a short period of time could cause poisoning.

Can I take other forms of iodine?

  • No, you should not take products that contain iodine, other than medicines recommended by public health authorities.
  • Iodine is found in a number of different household and industrial products. For example, iodine may be found in some disinfectants, antiseptics, and water-sterilizing solutions. These products should not be taken as an alternative to potassium iodide pills, because such products contain other ingredients that can be harmful if swallowed.

Can pregnant women take potassium iodide pills?

  • Yes, most pregnant women can take potassium iodide pills, following the instructions of public health authorities. Potassium iodide will cross the placenta and protect the thyroid of the growing foetus, as well as the mother.

Can breastfeeding women take potassium iodide?

  • Yes, most breastfeeding women can take potassium iodide, following the instructions of public health authorities.

How can I protect myself?

  • Keep you and your family informed by obtaining accurate and authoritative information (for example, information from authorities delivered by radio, TV or the Internet) and following your government's instructions.
  • The decision to stockpile or take potassium iodide tablets should be based on information provided by national health authorities who will be in the best position to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant these steps. 

Protocol to Treat Radiation Poisoning
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: potassium iodide (K1), 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.
By Prescription
With a prescription from a doctor, 130 mg tablets (standard) or a saturated solution of potassium iodide (K1) can be bought at many pharmacies today.

About 2 ounces of crystalline or granular potassium iodide is needed to fill a 2-fluid-ounce bottle about 60% full. Next, pour safe, room-temperature water into the bottle until it is about 90% full. Then close the bottle tightly and shake it vigorously for at least 2 minutes. Some of the solid potassium iodide should remain permanently undissolved at the bottom of the bottle; this is proof that the solution is saturated.

Experiments with a variety of ordinary household medicine droppers determined that 1 drop of a saturated solution of potassium iodide contains from 28 to 36 mg of potassium iodide. The recommended expedient daily doses of a saturated solution (approximately 130 mg for adults and children older than 12 years/ 65 mg for ages 3-12/ 32 mg for 1-36 months/ and 16 mg less than 1 month old) are as follows:

For adults and children older than 12 years: 4 drops of saturated solution of potassium iodide each 24 hours.

For children 3-12 years: 2 drops of saturated solution of potassium iodide each 24 hours.

For children 1-36 months: 1 drop saturated solution of potassium iodide.

Potassium iodide has a painfully bad taste, so bad that a single crystal or 1 drop of the saturated solution in a small child's mouth would make him cry. Some KI tablets are coated and tasteless. 

The following two methods of taking a saturated solution are recommended:

Put the recommended number of drops of the solution based on the age of the child into a glass of milk or other beverage, stir, and drink quickly. Then drink some of the beverage with nothing added. If only water is available, use it in the same manner.

Place the recommended number of drops of the solution on a small piece of bread. Dampen and mold it into a firm ball, about 1-2 cm in diameter. There is almost no taste if this pill is swallowed quickly with water.

NOTE: 4 drops of the saturated solution provide a dose approximately equal to 130 mg of potassium iodide.

Preparing potassium iodide (K1) tablets to give to infants and small children:
The official instructions for using KI tablets state that one half (1/2 or 65 mg) of a 130-mg tablet, first crushed, should be given every 24 hours to children 3-12 years of age, a quarter (1/4 or 32 mg) of a tablet should be crushed for children 1-36 months and an eighth (1/8 or 16 mg) of a 130 mg tablet for babies one month old and younger than one month old.

Putting even a small fraction of a crushed or pulverized potassium iodide tablet on one's tongue is a startling experience, with a burning sensation. A slightly burnt sensation continues for hours. Therefore, a mother is advised to make this experiment where her children cannot see her.

To eliminate the painfully bad taste of a crushed or pulverized KI tablet, first pulverize it thoroughly. Next stir it for a minute into at least 2 ounces of milk, orange juice, or cold drink, to make sure that the potassium iodide is completely dissolved. Then the taste is not objectionable. If only water is available, stir the pulverized tablet into more than 2 ounces of water.

KI is a corrosive salt, more injurious than aspirin to tissue with which it is in direct contact. Some doctors advise taking KI tablets after meals, except when so doing would delay taking the initial dose during an emergency. All recognize that taking a dilute solution of KI is easier on the stomach than taking the same dose in tablet form. This may be a consequential consideration when taking KI for weeks during a prolonged nuclear emergency.

Elemental (free) iodine is poisonous, except in the very small amounts in water disinfected with iodine tablets or a few drops of tincture of iodine. Furthermore, elemental iodine supplied by iodine tablets and released by tincture of iodine dropped into water is not effective as a blocking agent to prevent thyroid damage from radiation. If you do not have any potassium iodide: DO NOT TAKE IODINE TABLETS OR TINCTURE OF IODINE.

Without Prescription
Individuals can buy chemical reagent grade potassium iodide, that is purer than the pharmaceutical grade, from some chemical supply firms. To prepare a saturated solution of potassium iodide, fill a bottle about 60% full of crystalline or granular potassium iodide. A 2-fluid-ounce bottle, made of dark glass and having a solid, non-metallic, screw cap top, is a good size for a family.

About 2 ounces of crystalline or granular potassium iodide is needed to fill a 2-fluid-ounce bottle about 60% full. Next, pour safe, room-temperature water into the bottle until it is about 90% full. Then close the bottle tightly and shake it vigorously for at least 2 minutes. Some of the solid potassium iodide should remain permanently undissolved at the bottom of the bottle; this is proof that the solution is saturated.

World Health Organization recommended dosage of potassium iodide for radiological emergencies involving radioactive iodine:

Age KI in mg

Over 12 years old 130
3 – 12 years old 65
1 – 36 months old 32
< 1 month old 16

How and when to take Potassium iodide (K1)
Potassium iodide should be taken as soon as possible after public health officials tell you. You should take one dose every 24 hours. More will not help you because the thyroid can hold only limited amounts of iodine. Larger doses will increase the risk of side effects. You will probably be told not to take the drug for more than 10 days.

Side Effects  
Usually, side effects of potassium iodide happen when people take higher doses for a long time. You should be careful not to take more than the recommended dose or take it for longer than you are told. Side effects are unlikely because of the low dose and the short time you will be taking the drug.

Possible side effects include skin rashes, swelling of the salivary glands, and iodism: metallic taste, burning mouth and throat, sore teeth and gums, symptoms of a head cold, and sometimes stomach upset and diarrhea.

A few people have an allergic reaction with more serious symptoms. These could be fever and joint pains, or swelling of parts of the face and body and at times severe shortness of breath requiring immediate medical attention.

Taking iodide may rarely cause overactivity of the thyroid gland, underactivity of the thyroid gland, or enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter).

What to do if side effects occur
If the side effects are severe or if you have an allergic reaction, stop taking potassium iodide. Then call a doctor or public health authority for instructions.

Signs and Symptoms of Radiation Poisoning
Radiation sickness is generally associated with acute (a single large) exposure. Nausea and vomiting are usually the main symptoms. 

The amount of time between exposure to radiation and the onset of the initial symptoms may be an indicator of how much radiation was absorbed, as symptoms appear sooner with higher doses of exposure. The symptoms of radiation sickness become more serious (and the chance of survival decreases) as the dosage of radiation increases. 

A few symptom-free days may pass between the appearance of the initial symptoms and the onset of symptoms of more severe illness associated with higher doses of radiation. Nausea and vomiting generally occur within 24–48 hours after exposure to mild (1–2 Sv) doses of radiation. Radiation damage to the intestinal tract lining will cause nausea, bloody vomiting and diarrhea. This occurs when the victim's exposure is 200 rems (1 Sv = 100 rems) or more. The radiation will begin to destroy the cells in the body that divide rapidly. These including blood, GI tract, reproductive and hair cells, and harms the DNA and RNA of surviving cells. 

Headache, fatigue, and weakness are also seen with mild exposure. Moderate (2–3.5 Sv of radiation) exposure is associated with nausea and vomiting beginning within 12–24 hours after exposure. In addition to the symptoms of mild exposure, fever, hair loss, infections, bloody vomit and stools, and poor wound healing are seen with moderate exposure. Nausea and vomiting occur in less than 1 hour after exposure to severe (3.5–5.5 Sv) doses of radiation, followed by diarrhea and high fever in addition to the symptoms of lower levels of exposure. 

Very severe (5.5–8 Sv of radiation) exposure is followed by the onset of nausea and vomiting in less than 30 minutes followed by the appearance of dizziness, disorientation, and low blood pressure in addition to the symptoms of lower levels of exposure. Severe exposure is fatal about 50% of the time.

Note: Click on this live link (1 Sv = 100 rems)  for more information about the sievert measurement of radiation. 

Alternative Medicine For Radiation Poisoning
Diethylenetriamine Pentaacidic Acid (DTPA) absorbs isotopes that Prussian blue cannot. DTPA absorbs radioactive heavy metals like plutonium, curium (named after Marie Curie), and americium. These metals are bound to the DTPA, which the kidneys then process, eventually passing the radioactive waste through the body as urine.

Prussian blue is a dye that can bind with certain radioactive materials like cesium and thallium. If you suspect that you are suffering from radiation poisoning due to inhalation or ingestion, then a doctor may administer doses of Prussian blue to prevent absorption by body tissue. The dye will bind with radioactive material and pass through the intestinal tract. Prussian blue is safe for everyone from the ages two and up (including pregnant women). Dose sizes are not established for children under two, but Prussian blue is assumed safe.

Natural News: Nuclear Contamination Treatment

What About Radiation From Cell Phone Use?
Cell phone radiation refers to radiation in the form of electromagnetic waves that is emitted from mobile phones. This type of radiation takes the form of radio waves that are near the microwave range. The amount of cell phone radiation that a given device will emit depends on the exact frequency of the radiation, as well as whether the device is using an analog signal or a digital one. There has been speculation that large amounts of cell phone radiation could be hazardous to the user's health, but there are no conclusive scientific findings on the subject.

There is a degree of controversy surrounding the implications of cell phone radiation, and what it means to our health. Some research has suggested that the type of radio frequencies used by cell phones can speed up the progression of cancer in laboratory test animals, but it has proven difficult to replicate these results. It is known that cell phone radiation can affect pacemakers, but the main concern is related to the fact that most cell phone users hold the phone against their ear. If significant levels of radiation enter the tissues of the head in this way over time, some worry that this can increase the likelihood of brain tumors and related conditions.

When we think of harmful radiation, things like X-rays or gamma rays usually come to mind, but these types of radiation are different from cell phone radiation in important ways. Radiation on the ultraviolet side of visible light, like those types just mentioned, has a wavelength that is short enough to alter some of the chemical properties of the objects it interacts with. It is referred to as ionizing radiation, for this reason. Non-ionizing radiation, which includes visible light, microwaves and radio waves, is typically regarded as harmless. Large amounts of it can produce a heating effect, like in a microwave oven, but no short-term damage has been linked to exposure to non-ionizing radiation.

Since cell phone radiation is non-ionizing, it is generally seen as being harmless in the short term. The question is whether long-term exposure poses any risk. Whether or not it does is unknown, but as cell phone usage continues to expand worldwide, more information will likely become available regarding this issue.

The exact source of radiation in a cell phone is from the transmitter, a device located near the antenna that converts audio data into electromagnetic waves. The amount of radiation a cell phone can emit is limited by legal restrictions in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Additionally, the average radiation levels of most mobile phones are available to the public, courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.

The best method of cell phone radiation protection is to keep the phone as far from the body as possible while it is turned on. Keeping calls short as well as making them from good reception areas will also reduce exposure. Texting requires shorter bursts of radiation than talking and puts more distance between a person's body and the phone. When shopping for a new phone, individuals should be sure to research how much power each model puts out. Frequent cell phone users should also utilize a headset and the built-in speaker phone to keep the handset at a distance.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Center For Marine and Environmental Radiation has both the experience and facilities to monitor and track the spread of radionuclides released from Fukushima in the waters of the Pacific Coast of North America. The Institution and the Center for Marine and Environmental Radiation (CMER) are uniquely equipped to provide consistent, accurate assessment of both natural and manmade radiation in marine samples and is hosting this site to make this information readily available to everyone in a timely manner. 

World Health Organization 

Atmospheric circulation weather systems - W to E

The jet streams are narrow bands of strong winds (a few hundred kilometres wide), traveling (160-320 Km/hr - minimum 110 Km/hr) west to east, 10 Km above earth, between cold and warm air masses. The jet streams depend on the temperature difference between the air masses for movement; the greater the temperature difference, the faster this river of air moves.

International Atomic Energy Agency


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