Nuclear fears: Why Ukrainians are rushing to buy iodine pills and how they can help


NEW DELHI: With Ukrainians living in constant fear of a nuclear attack, there has been a particular interest in iodine pills.
“Customers are coming in daily looking for the pills,” a pharmacist in Kyiv told The New York Times earlier this week.
Last week, the Kyiv City Council had announced that potassium iodide pills would be distributed to residents in case of a nuclear incident “based on medical recommendations,” adding that the pills were also available in city pharmacies.

Some countries in Europe have already started stockpiling the tablets and pharmacies in Finland began to run low on the pills after that country’s health ministry recommended households buy a single dose in case of emergency.
But what are iodine pills? And what can they do — and what can’t they do — in the case of a nuclear leak or attack?
Potassium iodide, or KI, offers specific protection against one kind of exposure.
It prevents the thyroid — a hormone-producing gland in the neck — from picking up radioactive iodine, which can be released into the atmosphere in a nuclear accident.
This radioactive material can increase the risk of thyroid cancer if it gets into the body, for example by breathing it in or eating contaminated food.
It’s especially dangerous for children, and its health risks can last for many years after exposure, according to the World Health Organization.
Iodine tablets work by filling up the thyroid with a stable version of iodine so that the radioactive kind can’t get in. If the thyroid is already packed with potassium iodide, it won’t be able to pick up the harmful iodine that’s left after a nuclear accident.
The pills are cheap and sold all over the world, and many countries, including the US, stockpile them.
But potassium iodide doesn’t protect against other kinds of radioactive threats.
A nuclear bomb, for example, can release many different kinds of radiation and radioactive material that can harm many parts of the body.
Health authorities caution that potassium iodide should only be taken in certain nuclear emergencies, and works best if it’s taken close to the time of exposure. It shouldn’t be taken as a preventive measure ahead of time.
Nuclear catastrophe
It is not just threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin that have stoked fears of a nuclear disaster.
Concerns have also grown in recent weeks over periodic power cuts to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that have increased the risk of a meltdown.
In fact, fears of a nuclear catastrophe have been at the forefront ever since Russian troops occupied the plant during the early days of the war.
Continued fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces — as well as the tense supply situation at the plant — have raised the specter of a disaster.
Ukrainian authorities decided several weeks ago to power down the last reactor to reduce the risk of a catastrophe like the one at Chernobyl in 1986, where a reactor exploded and blew deadly radiation across a large vast area.
But the reactor core and used nuclear fuel must still be cooled for lengthy periods to prevent them overheating and triggering dangerous meltdowns like the ones that occurred in 2011 when a tsunami hit the Fukushima plant in Japan.
Shutting down the plant’s last reactor several weeks ago significantly reduced the risk of a radiation disaster by gradually increasing the time it would take for a meltdown to occur. But if cooling fails due to a complete loss of power, meltdowns would still happen eventually, said Rueffer.
Paul Dorfman, a nuclear expert at the University of Sussex in England, said that in the worst case, Ukraine could see a situation similar to what happened in Fukushima.
“You’d see a heating of the high level spent fuel ponds. You’d see a hydrogen explosion, as we saw in Fukushima,” he told The Associated Press. “And then you’d see a significant radiation release.”




Source Link

- Advertisement -

Share

Latest Updates

Trending News