The growing concern surrounding the release of radiation from an earthquake and tsunami-stricken nuclear complex in Japan has raised fears of radiation exposure to populations in North America from the potential plume of radioactivity crossing the Pacific Ocean.
To help Americans understand their radiation-related health risks, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), the American Thyroid Association (ATA), The Endocrine Society and the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) issued a joint statement (http://www.endo-society.org/advocacy/policy/upload/Joint-Statement-on-Radiation-Risks-to-Health.pdf).
The statement suggests that the principal radiation source of concern, in regard to impact on health, is radioactive iodine including iodine-131.This presents a special risk to health because exposure of the thyroid to high levels may lead to development of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer years later.
Radioactive iodine uptake to the thyroid can be blocked by taking potassium iodide (KI) pills. However the statement cautions KI should not be taken unless there is a clear risk of exposure to high levels of radioactive iodine. While some radiation may be detected in the United States as a result of the nuclear reactor accident in Japan, current estimates indicate radiation levels will not be harmful to the thyroid gland or general health. If radiation levels did warrant the use of KI, the statement recommends it should be taken as directed by physicians or public health authorities until the risk for significant exposure dissipates.\
The statement discourages individuals needlessly purchasing or hoarding of KI in the United States. Since there is not a radiation emergency in the United States or its territories, the statement does not support the ingestion of KI prophylaxis at this time. KI can cause allergic reactions, skin rashes, salivary gland inflammation, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism in a small percentage of people.
AACE, ATA, The Endocrine Society and SNM will continue to monitor potential risks to health from this accident and will issue amended advisories as warranted.
The complete statement: The recent nuclear reactor accident in Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami has raised fears of radiation exposure to populations in North America from the potential plume of radioactivity crossing the Pacific Ocean. The principal radiation source of concern is radioactive iodine including iodine-131, a radioactive isotope that presents a special risk to health because iodine is concentrated in the thyroid gland and exposure of the thyroid to high levels of radioactive iodine may lead to development of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer years later.
During the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in 1986, people in the surrounding region were exposed to radioactive iodine principally from intake of food and milk from contaminated farmlands. As demonstrated by the Chernobyl experience, pregnant women, fetuses, infants and children are at the highest risk for developing thyroid cancer whereas adults over age 20 are at negligible risk.
Radioiodine uptake by the thyroid can be blocked by taking potassium iodide (KI) pills or solution, most importantly in these sensitive populations. However, KI should not be taken in the absence of a clear risk of exposure to a potentially dangerous level of radioactive iodine because potassium iodide can cause allergic reactions, skin rashes, salivary gland inflammation, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism in a small percentage of people. Since radioactive iodine decays rapidly, current estimates indicate there will not be a hazardous level of radiation reaching the United States from this accident.
When an exposure does warrant KI to be taken, it should be taken as directed by physicians or public health authorities until the risk for significant exposure to radioactive iodine dissipates, but probably for no more than 1-2 weeks. With radiation accidents, the greatest risk is to populations close to the radiation source. While some radiation may be detected in the United States and its territories in the Pacific as a result of this accident, current estimates indicate that radiation amounts will be little above baseline atmospheric levels and will not
be harmful to the thyroid gland or general health.
We discourage individuals needlessly purchasing or hoarding of KI in the United States. Moreover, since there is not a radiation emergency in the United States or its territories, we do not support the ingestion of KI prophylaxis at this time. Our professional societies will continue to monitor potential risks to health from this accident and will issue amended advisories as warranted.
The Endocrine Society
Founded in 1916, The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Today, The Endocrine Society's membership consists of over 14,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in more than 100 countries. Society members represent all basic, applied, and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site atwww.endo-society.org.
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists AACE is a professional medical organization with more than 6,500 members in the United States and 91 other countries. AACE members are physicians who specialize in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism. For more information about AACE, visit our Web site at www.aace.com, become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theaace or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/theaace.
American Thyroid Association
The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the lead organization in promoting thyroid health and understanding thyroid biology. The ATA values scientific inquiry, clinical excellence, public service, education, collaboration, and collegiality.
A non-profit medical society founded in 1923, the ATA fulfills its mission through supporting excellence and innovation in research, clinical care, education, and public health. ATA members are physicians and scientists who work to enhance the understanding of thyroid physiology and pathophysiology, improve the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid diseases, and promote the education of physicians, patients, and the public about thyroid disorders. For more information, visit www.thyroid.org.
Society of Nuclear Medicine
SNM is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to raising public awareness about what molecular imaging is and how it can help provide patients with the best health care possible. SNM members specialize in molecular imaging, a vital element of today's medical practice that adds an additional dimension to diagnosis, changing the way common and devastating diseases are understood and treated.
SNM's more than 17,000 members set the standard for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine practice by creating guidelines, sharing information through journals and meetings and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research and practice. For more information, visit http://www.snm.org.
Contacts and sources: