Iodine can harm rather than protect: FDA


TAIPEI — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public Wednesday not to take iodine in the form of potassium iodide (KI), saying that incorrect dosages can lead to serious complications.

Responding to media reports that taking KI can reduce the effects of exposure to radiation, the FDA said in a press statement that the complications include skin rashes, enlargement of the salivary glands, inflammation of the throat and mouth, neuralgia and cold symptoms.

KI can also trigger more serious allergic reactions such as fever, joint pain and difficulty breathing in some people, said Tzou Meir-chyun, an FDA division director.

Meanwhile, Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Deputy Minister Shieh Der-jhy was quoted in an interview with local media as calling on the public not to take KI without supervision because it can be harmful.

The council noted that since there has been no indication of abnormal radiation levels in Taiwan in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan, consuming KI is meaningless.

According to the FDA, there is a stockpile of imported KI sufficient for 130,000 people and the Department of Health can issue temporary production licenses to local pharmaceutical companies to meet domestic demand during emergencies.

It is illegal to purchase KI over the Internet and it can only be distributed through government authorities, said Tzou, adding that interministerial meetings and evaluations must take place before the decision is made to provide the public with KI.

AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng said the council has a stockpile of 120,000 boxes of iodine tablets, which should be “sufficient for emergency use by residents living within five kilometers of nuclear power plants” in the event of a catastrophe.

If the supply is insufficient, emergency purchases can be made within five days, Tsai said.

He also said the council will provide residents living in the vicinity of the fourth nuclear power plant, located at Kungliao in New Taipei City, with additional iodine tablets in the coming days.

The AEC said it distributed the tablets in 2004 to residents living within five kilometers of the nuclear power plants, with each household receiving a two-day ration. The tablets are viable for 10 years.

The latest distributions will be for residents who have not kept their tablets carefully, the AEC said.