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Russia’s nuclear threat triggers panic-buying of iodine pills in Europe - Know why

People in several European countries are rushing to chemists and pharmacies to buy Iodine pills or syrup.

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DNA Web Team

Updated: Mar 04, 2022, 03:32 PM IST

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Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Vladimir Putin’s comments and orders to put the country’s Nuclear deterrent forces on high alert, mass hysteria has gripped central European countries. People in these countries are rushing to chemists and pharmacies to buy Iodine pills. In Poland, the buying of these pills has increased 50 times. Bulgaria’s drug stores have sold more in the last week than they sell in the entire year and many have run out of Iodine. The reason behind this ‘Iodine rush’ in Central Europe is because the people are nervous about the prospects of a nuclear attack and believe the pills will protect them from radiation.

Past experience with radiation and iodine

Russia captured of the Chernobyl nuclear plant last week. Site of the worst nuclear meltdown in human history, Chernobyl’s 1986 disaster made Europe confront with a radioactive cloud. Last parts of Ukraine suffered nuclear contamination. People in Central Europe were given iodine after the accident. Those memories have triggered the current Iodine buying spree.  

After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan in 2011, iodine was also advised by government there.

Does Iodine protect from radiation?

In pill or syrup form, Iodine is given to protect from harmful effects of radioactive iodine on the thyroid gland, including cancer. This is in the form of KI (potassium iodide). However, this is where it’s effectiveness ends. It does not work for other parts of the body. It also offers effectiveness against only radioactive iodine, but not other radioactive elements.

As per US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), KI won’t restrict radioactive iodine from entering the body. It also cannot reverse health effects, if thyroid is damaged by radioactive iodine. However, it can also harm if there is no presence of radioactive iodine.

Read | ‘World War 3 will be fought with nuclear weapons’: Russian Foreign Minister amid Ukraine crisis

In Central Europe, officials have warned against the use of iodine calling it not necessary in the current situation, and “basically useless” in case of a nuclear war.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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