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Radioactive Iodine enters the food chain

Mar 31, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency said a March 25 sample of milk produced in the Spokane, Wash., area contained a 0.8 pico curies per literlevel of iodine-131, which it said was less than one five-thousandth of the safety safety guideline set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Iodine-131 has a half-life of about eight days, meaning levels should fade quickly. "These findings are a minuscule amount compared to what people experience every day," the agency said.


Radioactive iodine is mainly a problem in Japan at the present time. Some of the iodine has drifted across the ocean to North America, but not in great quantities. And this Iodine-131 has a half life of 8 days, so it is only half as dangerous each 8 day period. It decays quite fast. And it has been 20 days already since the accident.

There is always a certain level of radioactive iodine in the atmosphere. It increases at higher elevations, such as Colorado. You get much more exposure every time you fly a plane, at least for that short amount of time that you are at 30,000 feet. Yet none of this is sufficient for you to take Potassium Iodate. Your body can handle a certain amount of radiation, especially if you take anti-oxidants or eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables, and if your immune system is functioning normally.

It would take a large explosion in the nuclear plant in Japan to propel the Iodine into the upper atmosphere in order to present a serious problem in North America. So far, there has been no such explosion, so it has been released only in the lower atmosphere. Most of it then falls into the ocean before reaching here.

That brings me to another problem--the food chain. In the coming months we may find a problem with salmon and tuna that is taken from the Pacific Ocean. As long as the problem is only radioactive Iodine, it should dissipate, but it seems that other radioactive materials are also being released into the ocean, which have a much longer half life and will affect sea life for many years to come.

Already, I would hesitate to eat fish from the Gulf of Mexico, not because of the oil, but because of the chemical dispersant that was dumped into the Gulf last year. They don't even test for that. The government prefers to ignore the chemical dispersant and focus just upon the oil itself. So it is hard to obtain any real figures that have real meaning.

We may be entering into a time of "Joseph's famine" with all of these food problems. Recall that last year the price of food began to rise quite dramatically. They were talking about many people starving, because they could not afford to buy food. Only those who can afford higher prices will be able to eat. Now we have this nuclear problem in Japan and the Pacific Ocean itself. It would not hurt to do some food storage before the real shortages hit.

My advice is to be as farsighted as possible. Don't wait until shortages are upon us to do something. Learn from the Iodate problem today. When the problem hit a few weeks ago, we sold out almost immediately and had to wait for another shipment to come in. But our supplier also had to wait for a shipment (from India). Remember that we don't manufacture much in this country any more. It just takes longer to order more supplies from overseas. And with the spike in demand, the wholesale prices always go up.

The wholesale price of Potassium Iodate went up from $12/kilo to $60/kilo back in the Y2K days just eleven years ago. Afterward, when the scare died down, the prices remained at the higher level. Now we have a new scare, and the wholesale price is starting to rise again. It's all about supply and demand. When wholesalers pay more, the retailers pay more. When retailers pay more, the public pays more. That's the economic food chain.

It could be worse, though. Potassium Iodide was already 50% higher than Iodate, and its price is going up to $150/kilo. It is much more expensive, simply because it enjoys official FDA approval because someone dished out $100 million years ago to get it approved. Some Iodide companies are spreading rumors that Iodate is not as good, or even that it is poisonous, but that is just "sales talk." Some of their statements are so bad that they could be sued, but in the end only lawyers would make money on the disputes.

There have been numerous scientific studies on Potassium Iodate which have shown it to be at least as effective as Iodide, and perhaps more, depending on the study. Both will work just fine, as long as it is not too old. The shelf life of Iodate is much longer than for Iodide. Iodide tends to start breaking down into elemental iodine after about 5 years. (You can tell by the pink or purple spots on the tablets themselves.) Elemental iodine is good for rest of the body, but you need the Iodide or Iodate form for the thyroid itself.

No one really knows the shelf life for Potassium Iodate, because it lasts indefinitely, if kept dry and stored in normal temperatures. However, my supplier has just now put a 20-year date on it, just to guarantee some sort of shelf life. This does not mean that one must throw it away after 20 years. Just take the advertised shelf life for what it is worth.

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Dr. Stephen Jones

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