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The whole truth about iodine 131

Yes, exposure is bad for your thyroid gland, but you should definitely seek medical consultation before you even think about treating yourself.

The Fukushima radiation leaks have people talking about iodine 131, a radioactive isotope of the mineral iodine, which has recently been found at heightened levels in the air and pasture from the state of Washington to Scotland. Though most experts say there’s no cause for alarm, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s 2002 study stated that iodine 131 exposure leads to “a higher risk for developing thyroid cancer or thyroid disease, or both.”

The study also concluded children are particularly vulnerable, and a developing fetus might be most at risk. But the current situation may not be that dire.

“Iodine 131 has a predilection for the thyroid and the ovaries,” says Dr. Chris Sterrett of the Holtorf Medical Group, whose specialty is complex thyroid and endocrine disorders. “But these doses we’re seeing are very small, it’s unclear if it’s harmful in such small doses.”

The antidote to significant iodine 131 exposure is a large dose of iodine (130 mg), a trace mineral essential to keep the thyroid gland healthy.

“It binds with the radioactive iodine 131,” explains Sterrett. “But you should be very careful about taking massive doses of iodine.”

That’s because it can create an imbalance in the thyroid gland, which produces a hormone that promotes physical and mental development in children — and keeps mood and energy levels even in adults.

“The best thing to do is have your thyroid checked,”?says Sterrett. “That’s a good idea as people get older and produce less hormones, anyway.”

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