As officials in Japan express optimism about containing the nuclear accident there, U.S. officials are advising Americans there is no need to take potassium iodide tablets.
Nevertheless, the State Department has authorized the distribution of potassium iodide to U.S. government personnel in Japan, "out of an abundance of caution." But it's a precautionary step, and State tells personnel there, they should only take the protective iodine if instructed to do so by the U.S. government.
For people close to a radiation leak, potassium iodide can be useful in preventing thyroid cancer from the release of radioactive iodine.
Radiation levels in the U.S. from the plant in Japan are expected to remain minuscule. And they're nowhere close to the levels that would prompt them to take "KI," the chemical shorthand for the pills.
Even so, there are reports that people on the West Coast are trying to stock up on potassium iodide tablets. Now, the Federal Trade Commission warns, scam artists are doing their best to persuade people in this country to start downing the stuff. The FTC goes on to say that people should talk to their doctor before buying, and that only certain forms are approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that some people may be allergic to iodine, and might get sick if they take KI unnecessarily. Adults who have consulted with a doctor and determined that they should take potassium iodide should take no more than 130 milligrams, the recommended daily dose for radiation protection. Children should take half that amount.
But, it bears repeating, right now there is NO indication that people in the U.S. should be worried about radiation exposure from the plants in Japan.