Estonian experts do not recommend stockpiling iodine tablets at home

Tablets. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health recommends that all Finns between the ages of three and 40 buy iodine pills from a pharmacy and keep them on hand, the media reports. Estonian specialists say that even if Russia were to strike the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, iodine would not be necessary.

Ave-Triin Tolk, the Health Board's chief specialist, said that they are aware of the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health's recommendation that all Finns between the ages of three and 40 buy iodine pills from a pharmacy for home storage. Iodine pills have been a national worry there for years because our neighbors have nuclear power facilities. Now, a public handbook has been revised to specify who should and should not store iodine tablets at home, as well as for what purposes.

Adviser to the board's radiation department Teet Koitjärv said that Finland is now undergoing a substantial overhaul of radiation and nuclear legislation, and as part of this the 2002 recommendations on iodine tablets have been updated:

"All countries with operational nuclear power plants are required to keep a certain number of iodine pills within a certain radius of the facility in the event of an accident. So the use of iodine as a preventative measure is justified. However, the new guidelines state that this primarily affects young people," Koitjärv said.

In contrast to Finland, there are no nuclear power stations in Estonia and Estonians do not need to purchase and store iodine tablets at home, Tolk explained. 

"Because there are no direct radiation risks, I do not believe people should stock up on iodine tablets. The public will be notified if the risk increases, but the situation is currently stable, so there is no need to rush to the pharmacy," he said.

The Environmental Board conducts radiation monitoring that routinely evaluates the risk. Koitjarv said that the events in Ukraine, regardless of how bad or frightening they become, do not affect Estonia in any way in terms of radiation or nuclear safety.

"There is currently no threat and no new circumstances that should cause one to become concerned and act differently. Iodine is also not a universal anti-radiation drug. People believe that iodine neutralizes radiation or keeps it at bay, but this is not entirely so. Iodine is simply related to a particular radioactive isotope of iodine that is produced in certain types of nuclear power plant accidents. However, iodine does nothing to repel radiation as such and there is no need to stockpile iodine tablets in Estonia," Koitjärv said.

He added that indiscriminate intake of large quantities of iodine pills can even be harmful. "Under no circumstances should we use iodine tinctures or other substances that are capable of causing irreversible harm to our health," he said.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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