Using Potassium Iodide to Prevent Thyroid Cancer During Nuclear Fallout
Nuclear war is a scary thought, but it's not the end of the world.
Seattle is a beautiful city, and it's booming (no pun intended). The two wealthiest men in the world, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos (at $90 billion each), live here. We currently have more construction cranes than any other city in the United States. We have the most breweries (after California), the most suicides (this is a common misconception, we don't even crack the top 10). One thing we likely do have: nuclear bombs, and a whole lot of them.
Just across the Puget Sound waterway, on the Olympic Peninsula, lies Naval Base Kitsap, locally known as, "Sub Base Bangor." It is the primary submarine base for the Pacific Fleet, and the Navy's largest fuel depot. The submarine base in King's Bay, Georgia is the primary base for the Atlantic Fleet. Those are the two primary submarine bases for the entire Navy. Up to 50% of the Navy's nuclear submarines are serviced just across the water from Seattle. I think it's safe to assume we keep a good amount of nukes on hand, right here in the Pacific Northwest. Don't forget about Boeing, nearby, building planes for the military. We're also geographically one of the closest U.S. locations to North Korea. Living in Seattle, you can't help but occasionally ponder the possibility of an apocalypse.
NUKEMAP showing potential fallout trails of a Seattle attack.
What exactly is nuclear "fallout?"
"Nuclear Fallout" is the radioactive dust that "falls out" of the sky after a nuclear event. It can take an hour to start snowing this toxic ash, and it can travel 200 miles or more (for a ground explosion. An explosion in mid-air can spread fallout worldwide). Most of it usually falls within 24 hours. If you breath it, eat it, drink it, or touch it, you'll likely be getting thyroid cancer and radiation sickness, among other things. Thyroid cancer is often survivable, but your thyroid is important. If you're outside, exposed to this dust, cover your mouth with a wet cloth, cover any open sores, get inside quickly, take off all your clothes, put them in a plastic bag, and take a shower with lots of soap. Do not use conditioner! It can keep radioactive debris on your skin longer. Fallout will burn your skin (think about the worst sunburn your ever had, it's probably a lot worse than that), so bundle up, get inside, and minimize your exposure.
What are you supposed to do if a nuclear bomb detonates in your area?
I believe it's unlikely we will be given much, if any warning, from authorities before a nuclear detonation. An ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) could arrive in Seattle from North Korea in around 30 minutes. It's impossible to know what the local emergency response would be, as it's actually illegal for WA State representatives to prepare for this scenario. Section 38.52.030 of the WA State legislature states,
"The comprehensive, all-hazard emergency plan authorized under this subsection may not include preparation for emergency evacuation or relocation of residents in anticipation of nuclear attack."
This was likely a knee-jerk reaction to the cold war coming to an end (circa 1984). Official preparations can be seen as a threat, and they didn't want to provoke any hard feelings again.
It's up to private citizens to be prepared, to have a basic idea of what to do, in the unlikely event of a nuclear explosion. These are just some suggestions, after having done some research. I encourage you to do your own research. Some links are provided below.
I am not a doctor. Consult a doctor before taking any new medication.
- Find the best shelter available. Underground is best, but inside big, concrete buildings is good too. Lots of walls, floors and ceilings to shield you from the blast debris, the shock waves, the thermal blast (giant sunburn) and the radiation.
- Do not look at the flash of light. Turn away, close and cover your eyes.
- Drop to the ground, face down, and place your hands under your body.
- Remain flat, until the heat and two shock waves have passed. It can take 30 seconds for the shock waves to reach you, depending on your distance from the event.
- Depending on your distance to the blast, even if there are no shock waves, you can still suffer burns all over your body. Supposedly, white fabric can help reflect some of that thermal radiation. Wrap up in a white sheet, this can also be helpful for transporting your body later.
- Take potassium iodide (KI). 1 tablet every 24 hours, half a tablet if you're under 12, a quarter tablet dissolved in water, for babies. Read the label and do your research. Potassium Iodide fills your thyroid with good iodine, protecting it from filling up with bad iodine. Iodine is called, "iodide," when it's in a safe form for consumption, that's the only difference. Research all this information yourself, don't just take my word for it. Links are below.
- Listen to authorities on the radio, they will give you more instructions. Radiation disappears fairly quickly, down to 10% after 2 days, and down to 1% after 2 weeks, roughly. Be prepared to stay indoors, drinking only bottled water (tap water will be contaminated), eating packaged food, for up to 2 weeks, or until otherwise notified.
- Evacuation may be recommended, but sitting in your car during the fallout may be more dangerous than staying put for a few days.
World Health Organization
American Thyroid Association
CDC Nuclear FAQ
- CDC Radiation Emergencies | Frequently Asked Questions About a Nuclear Blast
Information on terrorism and public health. Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).