How Much Potassium Iodide Should I Store?

by Calamity Jane on January 8, 2013

First things first, everyone knows what Potassium Iodide is right? For anyone confused, it’s the chemical KI, and it’s used during radiation exposure events to minimize the damage from radioactive iodine to thyroids. Most often it’s sold in pill form, in packs of 14.

Who should store potassium iodide? Anyone who lives downwind of nuclear power plants or nuclear missile silos. (Search for images of wind maps if you are unfamiliar with prevailing wind patterns.)

Won’t you just die if there’s a nuclear explosion? Not at all! If you can keep some mass between you and the radiation, you can easily wait out the half-life of the worst of the radiation.  You’ll be tired of your basement after a couple of weeks, but you’ll be very much alive.

Where does the Potassium Iodide come in? With any exposure event for radiation, you need to protect your thyroid, the CDC says it best:

Following a radiological or nuclear event, radioactive iodine may be released into the air and then be breathed into the lungs. Radioactive iodine may also contaminate the local food supply and get into the body through food or through drink. When radioactive materials get into the body through breathing, eating, or drinking, we say that “internal contamination” has occurred. In the case of internal contamination with radioactive iodine, the thyroid gland quickly absorbs this chemical. Radioactive iodine absorbed by the thyroid can then injure the gland. Because non-radioactive KI acts to block radioactive iodine from being taken into the thyroid gland, it can help protect this gland from injury.

After events like the Fukushima melt down, demand far outstripped supply for this preventative measure.

How much do I need? I will do the math for my family of 2 adults and 2 kids, and hopefully y’all can extrapolate for your own situation.

According to the FDA, the following doses are appropriate to take after internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine:

  • Adults should take 130 mg.
  • Women who are breastfeeding should take the adult dose of 130 mg.
  • Children between 3 and 18 years of age should take 65 mg. Children who are adult size (greater than or equal to 150 pounds) should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
  • Infants and children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take 32 mg.  This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing infants and children.
  • Newborns from birth to 1 month of age should be given 16 mg. This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing newborn infants.

One of the things to remember though, is that anyone over 40 can survive fairly well without a dose.  They are the least likely to develop thyroid damage or cancer after a radiation event and the most likely to have allergies to KI.

So, for every day I want protection for, I need to have at least 227 mg if just me and babies are dosing, or 357 if hubby is getting dosed too.  A pack (14) of 130mg tablets has a total of 1820 mg in it.   That’s 5 full days of protection for all of us.  If I want enough to outlast something like a local nuclear power reactor melting down, I might want 4 packs so I can dose us all for a few weeks.  That matches up with the FDA’s recommendation of one pack per person, but I encourage you to all do your own math.

Anyone live near a potential nuclear problem? KI does eventually expire, so be sure to rotate your stock!

- Calamity Jane

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

the old guy January 8, 2013

KI4U.com instructs how to buy and use USP iodate and iodide for pennys and enough to dose your whole small town for 3 weeks for pennys apiece. BEST BUY!

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irishdutchuncle January 8, 2013

I meant to print out a hard copy of that before it was too late,
really I did. There are also instructions somewhere on how to purify drinking water with Permanganate…
should have printed them out too. (the difference between an “armchair survivalist” and an actual survivor)

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Anonymous January 9, 2013

26grams KI/Liter of clean drinking water. Adult dose: 5mL. (one teaspoon) daily. Most effective if begun 48hours in advance of exposure to radioactive isotopes of Iodine. very bitter taste, should be further diluted, or taken in a beverage.

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Anonymous January 9, 2013

Permanganate has lots of other (better) uses…

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Jason January 8, 2013

Hmmmm, Fukushima or Fuk/u/shima ….

I think “shima” means “we’re going down” in Japanese.

When that whole event took place & those reactors melted, people in Kentucky & Nebraska among many others that were so far from any kind of danger were making desperate runs to buy Potassium Iodide, that’s what killed our supply.

What really kills people is lack of knowledge, understanding probability & the fact that McDonald’s has been butchering cows & using beef that grazed on 3 Mile Island grass since it grew & regrew at an astonishing rate. Don’t believe me? Buy a Big Mac, lock yourself in a closet & you can see a faint green glow.

All seriousness aside :-) I do not keep any on hand & I live within 25 miles of San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. I take the Gone With The Wind approach – air is simply air, contaminated or not, the body will filter out the bad parts & keep on truckin’.

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irishdutchuncle January 8, 2013

yeh, if you’re gone like the wind before it gets there…

cross-wind first, then up-wind. half mask respirator, with dust cartridges.

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Jason January 8, 2013

If it happens at San Onofre, I will drive there (less traffic) & hug a reactor. Nothing is worth doing unless you do it right!

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irishdutchuncle January 8, 2013

to each, his own.

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ORRN on LI January 8, 2013

I worked 15 years with a potassium iodide etch for gold microelectronic substrates, I think I absorbed enough to counter a nuclear event!!!! I also worked 8 years with a cyanide etch, now 12 years in the hospital setting, who knows what crazy cancer is in my future!!!!! I still think the McDonalds and Pepsi do more damage than what I’ve worked with. Thanks for the info, what do you think the shelf life is on them, the real shelf life, which is usually longer than what they put on the package?

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Leia January 9, 2013

The shelf life is 5 years

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smokechecktim January 8, 2013

off subject, but worth the read. On michael yon’s site( a combat journalist who’s work I respect) is an interesting article on gun control written by a russian. Basically telling us never surrender our gun rights. Read it if you have the time. michaelyon-online.com

the american revolution would never have happened with gun control.

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Joe Schmoe Alias January 8, 2013

As an Endocrinologist (who also is a prepper) who works with Radioactive Iodine every week:
- Iodine will need to be re-dosed in 2 – 3 weeks depending on your previous I2 level, weight, metabolic rate, and whether the salt you prepped is kosher (non-iodinated) or iodized. Think – do you believe ALL the wind driven Iodine131 will be in the ground in 2 weeks?
- I131 has a one week half-life. That means if you get a dose high enough to cause thyroid cancer day 0, it will still be high enough to do that 30 days later (4 half-lives)
- People over 40 don’t need Iodine? Only if you plan on not living past 60 after the SHTF. 20 years later preppers who didn’t use I2 will have a pandemic of Thyroid Cancer. I learned most of what I learned about thyroid cancer from treating Chernobyl survivors in my Endocrine Fellowship. Many children. Just as many middle aged men and women. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Be prepared to take your I2. Everybody. at least once a week. For a Month. And pray we don’t have to.

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Leia January 9, 2013

Not true! Most people who are over forty have thyroids that are very poor at uptaking Iodine. That doesn’t mean that is true for 100% of the population over 40. It isn’t just about age but also the function of the persons thyroid. There are many that don’t need to take KI. It is advised to consult a doctor because with any meds, there are side effects and some can be deadly.

I was stationed in Italy during Chernobyl and we measured levels on post. No KI was ever issued but yet if you research Vets that have developed thyroid cancer within the 26 years which have followed you will not find a significant increase in numbers in vets that were stationed in the impacted area opposed to those who weren’t.

People need to seek advice from a medical expert not a keyboard commando. As I stated earlier, not everyone can take KI so before you do take it then you should know if it is a benefit to you.

Chernobyl was different than a nuclear war and the two can’t be compared.

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John Brown January 12, 2013

> I learned most of what I learned about thyroid cancer from treating
> Chernobyl survivors in my Endocrine Fellowship.

Thank you for the information.

Though I have been slightly prepping and storing iodized salt, I had no idea on how much for my family and neighbours (for the kids). I guess I need a month’s worth all around.

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Walt January 11, 2013

“Radioisotopes of I pose an important health risk to man in nuclear accidents associated with electric power generation due to their uptake by the thyroid glands. Topical application of tincture of I or povidone-iodine to the skin of rats has been found to be as effective as oral administration of potassium iodide in blocking thyroid uptake of parenterally administered 131I. If the same effectiveness can be demonstrated in humans, this may be an attractive alternative method of mass protection from radioisotopes of I following nuclear accidents.” Miller KL, White WJ, Lang CM, Weidner WA. Health Phys. 1985 Nov;49(5):791-4.

I used to buy potassium iodide tablets, but a povidone-iodine (Betadine) is much cheaper, plus it’s uses as an antiseptic and for water purification in an emergency.

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