If you happened across our radiation survival guide, you'd know that one of the most valuable lines of defense against radioactive particles is potassium iodide. In the United States, west coasters have quickly depleted the supply of potassium iodide tablets, which leaves anyone still looking without emergency defense against harmful toxins.
Relax—the chances of radiation reaching the US is highly unlikely, so don't bother searching the web for in-stock rations of the pills. You'd be wasting your money.
But if there was a chance of radiation reaching the US in dangerous amounts, the pills would help people protect their thyroid gland, which is prone to absorbing radioactive iodine. Potassium iodide (KI) contains a good amount of stable iodine, and when taken orally, saturates the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine, causing the gland to become full. This means neither stable nor radioactive iodine can enter.
Without potassium iodide, you (especially children) may end up with thyroid cancer someday. But taking potassium iodide capsules doesn't mean you can't be harmed from other radioactive materials, which can damage other organs in your body.
Still, potassium iodide can be dangerous if taken as a precautionary measure, especially when there's no immediate threat of radiation poisoning. In some people, taking KI where there is no radiation can actually damage the thyroid gland, especially to those with thyroid problems. And it could be life-threatening to those with allergies to iodine or shellfish, and may have side effects such as abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and bleeding.
It's advised that you don't take any potassium iodide pills until elevated radiation levels hit your area.
Though a recent concern because of the Fukushima Daiichi plant emitting radiation, taking potassium iodide for protection is not a new thing. A report commissioned by Congress in 2003 recommended that everyone under the age of 40 located near a nuclear power plant should have these pills on hand. And this is despite recent efforts from the CDC and DHSC preventing Americans from obtaining Potassium Iodide; Pharmacists are refusing to sell and Amazon.com is currently sold out.
But overall—it's a good idea to have a non-expired supply in your home, especially if you live near nuclear reactors of any kind. If you happen to be late to the party, then as a last resort (seriously—LAST), making some homemade potassium iodide could save your life (or if mixed in wrong quantities, end it).
- The information below is for theoretical usage only. No one should ingest this recipe for potassium iodide, because you CANNOT guarantee purity or safety of the dosage when DIY-ing it at home. If attempting to make this, you need professional grade chemistry gear.
- If you need to purchase chemistry equipment, be aware that the DEA, ATF and DHS track all sales of chemical equipment, in pursuit of clandestine chemists.
In the following video, Dan the "Home Scientist" (he's actually a physicist) will show you how to make potassium iodide from elemental iodine (I) and potassium hydroxide (KOH).
Chemical formula: 3I2 + 6KOH == 5KI + KIO3 + 3H2O
- Unless you get the ration exactly right, there will be some I2 or KOH contamination in the potassium iodide, which are not safe to eat, so again—this is for good old-fashioned scientific curiosity—don't ingest.
The following was taken from his blog:
"The potassium hydroxide solution must be hot, and luckily this is automatically taken care of because dissolving KOH flakes in water generates a lot of heat. You can see the iodine reacting with the KOH solution to become clear again in the photo below.
"It's very easy to tell if you've put too much iodine in, because the solution immediately goes yellow or brown. Iodine is not very soluble in water, but becomes much more so in the presence of the iodide ion by forming the triiodide ion, I3-. This is easily solvable by adding a few chips of potassium hydroxide until the solution becomes clear again.
"The coproduct of potassium iodate (KIO3) is easily separated by the difference in solubility. KIO3 is much less soluble in water than KI, and most of it will precipitate out as a solid. To remove as much of this as I could, I further placed the beaker in an ice bath and got a bit more precipitate. My iodate sample was tan because of iodine impurities..."
Yet another example of this process is outlined in the video below, by YouTube chemist myst32YT.
SOURCE The Home Scientist