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Delaware Health Alert Network #246

March 18, 2011 5:46 pm

Health Advisory

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake, ensuing tsunami and nuclear reactor damage occurring in Japan has caused concerns around the world about the risk of radiation exposure and use of potassium iodide (KI) to prevent thyroid cancer. At this time, there is no risk of exposure to radiation from Japan for people in Delaware. Therefore, the Delaware Division of Public Health is advising against taking KI at this time. DPH is issuing this health advisory for the healthcare community to provide information for patients about KI as a preventive measure to limit radiation dose to the thyroid, when indicated.

Important points to know:

  • There is no increased risk of radiation exposure in Delaware from the Japanese reactors at this time.
  • DPH will continue to monitor the situation and issue additional recommendations in accordance with state and federal agencies as indicated.
  • Potassium iodide is only effective in preventing thyroid cancer associated with internal exposure to radioactive iodine.
  • Internal exposure occurs when a person inhales or ingests radioactive iodine, or has direct open wound or mucous membrane contamination with radioactive iodine particles.
  • KI blocks the uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland enhancing its elimination from the body.
  • KI may not be recommended for some people to prevent thyroid cancer even if internal contamination is suspected.  These conditions include:
    • Allergy to iodine or shellfish
    • Certain skin disorders including dermatitis herpetiformis or urticaria vasculitis
    • Existing thyroid problems
  • The risk for thyroid cancer from internal contamination with radioactive iodine is greater for young children and infants than it is for older adults.

For more information on potassium iodide (KI), visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

If you have questions about this HAN Advisory, contact the Delaware Division of Public Health at 302-744-4700.


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