U.S. makes potassium iodide available in Japan

WASHINGTON Mon Mar 21, 2011 7:36am EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is making potassium iodide available to U.S. personnel and their dependents living in Tokyo and other parts of Japan, as a precaution against radiation exposure, the State Department said in a travel warning on Monday.

"The (potassium iodide) should only be consumed after specific instruction from the United States government," the travel warning said.

"While there is no indication that it will become advisable to take (potassium iodide), out of an abundance of caution the United States Government is making it available to its personnel and family members to be used only upon direction."

"No one should take (potassium iodide) at this time. In the event of a radiological release, sheltering in place or departing the affected area remain the primary means of protection," it said.

The move is consistent with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines that would apply to a similar situation in the United States, the State Department said.

Potassium iodide can saturate the thyroid gland and prevent the absorption of radioactive iodine. That can reduce the risk of cancer in the long term, if given before or shortly after exposure to radiation.

The treatment is being made available to the personnel and their families living in certain areas of Japan including Tokyo, Yokohama and the prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Iwate, Miyagi, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizouka, Tochigi, Yamagata, and Yamanashi.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Paul Simao)

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