by James J. Galligan, Ph.D., Associate Chair,
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

cnn image of nuclear reactor


There is tremendous interest in the potential risks of radiation exposure that might come from  the earthquake and tsunami damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.

Last week I discussed the mechanisms responsible for protection of the thyroid gland provided by potassium iodide tablets.  I want to clarify a few points about that blog.

  • Firstly, I provide basic information about the pharmacology and toxicology of drugs.  I focus on stories that appear in the popular press and my goal is to provide a little scientific background to these stories.  I do not and will not make any recommendations about what drugs readers should or should not take.
  • Secondly, readers need to understand that potassium iodide tablets provide very specific protection against one type of radiation danger.    Potassium iodide will only protect the thyroid gland against radiation exposure that would occur if the thyroid gland absorbs radioactive iodine emitted from the damaged reactor.

There is a wide range of the types of radiation that might be emitted and potassium iodide tablets do not protect against most radioactive emissions.