The Russia-Ukraine conflict may seem like something happening far away, but its impact has already reached our shores.
Scammers are quick to take advantage of any world crisis to find new victims. We saw this over the last couple of years during the pandemic and extreme weather events. Tap or click here for our report on Russia-Ukraine War scams and how to avoid falling victim to them.
Like toilet paper in early 2020, the in-demand item of the moment seems to be potassium iodide pills among those concerned about nuclear fallout if Russia launches nuclear weapons. And just like that shortage, there are price hikes and other things to watch out for.
The CDC defines potassium iodide (KI) as “salt of stable (not radioactive) iodine that can help block radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland, thus protecting this gland from radiation injury.”
The thyroid gland uses iodine to produce thyroid hormones and cannot distinguish between radioactive and non-radioactive iodine. Taking KI in pill or liquid form blocks the thyroid gland from absorbing any more iodine, radioactive or otherwise, for the next 24 hours. In essence, the thyroid gland becomes “full.”
If Russia hits Ukraine’s nuclear plants or uses an atomic bomb on the U.S., the results could be catastrophic. If there is a radiation emergency at a nuclear plant, deadly amounts of radioiodine could be put into the air. Wind and weather can carry radioactive fallout far beyond its point of origin.
Suppliers of FDA-approved potassium iodide are running out of stock. Anbex, Inc. put the following statement on its website: “We are currently out-of-stock of IOSAT Potassium Iodide 130mg and 65mg tablets.” Nukepills.com reports the same.
Here comes the price gouging
It’s no surprise that people are stockpiling potassium iodide pills and jacking up the prices. On eBay, you’ll find listings for 20 65mg tablets of Thyrsosafe for $100. Compare this to the standard costs of around $20.
A 14-pack of 130mg tablets of Iosat is going for more than $70, while a pack costs typically around $15.
This is not a miracle drug
The CDC warns that potassium iodide “does not keep radioactive iodine from entering the body and cannot reverse the health effects caused by radioactive iodine once the thyroid is damaged.”
It only can protect the thyroid. Radioactive elements can cause external burns and damage to your eyes. Once ingested (via food, water, or eating animals that have consumed it) will cause damage to your other organs.
Potassium iodide works best for infants and small children, who are more sensitive to radioactive iodine. Pregnant women can take the treatment to protect their developing fetus.
Adults over 40 have a lower chance of developing thyroid cancer after radioactive iodine contamination and are more likely to have allergic reactions or other adverse effects from potassium iodine.
This group should not take potassium iodide unless “public health or emergency management officials say that contamination with a very large dose of radioactive iodine is expected,” the CDC warns.