Health

UK demand for 'radiation blocker' increases

Potassium iodide
Image caption Pharmacies do not stock potassium iodide

Pharmacists says demand for a drug which can block the uptake of radioactive iodine has soared in the UK since the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Taking potassium iodide tablets floods the thyroid gland so it cannot absorb any more of the radioactive material.

The National Pharmacy Association has revealed that more than 100 pharmacists have called to seek advice on dealing with customers wanting the drug.

The Health Protection Agency states there is no radiation risk in the UK.

The NPA says pharmacists are getting more enquiries.

It says some customers want to send the pills to relatives in Japan, some are concerned after returning from the country, while others are worried about nuclear radiation spreading to the UK.

The tablets are not normally available in UK pharmacies, although the government has stockpiles in case of an emergency.

No risk in UK

Potassium iodide does not neutralise radiation, but prevents any more radioactive iodine being absorbed.

The NPA warns that the medication needs to be taken within three hours of a nuclear accident to be most effective so anything taken to friends or relatives in Japan could cause more harm than good.

The Health Protection Agency says: "There is no health risk to people living in the UK from the release of radioactive material from the Japanese nuclear power plant."

As a result the NPA says "there is no immediate necessity for pharmacists to supply potassium iodide to the British public."

There were reports earlier in the week of a surge in sales of potassium iodide in the US.

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