PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is concern the nuclear power plant in Japan is releasing radioactive iodine and that’s why iodine tablets are being given to people who live in surrounding areas.

Taking iodine pills saturates the thyroid gland and can prevent radioactive iodine from entering the body.  It can help prevent thyroid cancer.

People in places like Toronto and San Diego are also buying up the pills. Are they putting themselves at risk for what would be a very low risk of being exposed to radioactive iodine?  According to several studies the answer is no.

We have problems when there are acute toxic amounts of iodine given. If people take many grams they can get acute iodine poisoning with burning in the mouth, stomach problems, diarrhea, even a coma can occur.  But these are extremely high amounts.

People who abuse iodine can impair the production of thyroid hormone. But once again we’re talking about abuse. In normal amounts there are few problems.

Reported by Dr. Brian McDonough, KYW Newsradio

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