Denmark stockpiles 2 million iodine tablets as Russia nuclear fears soar

Korshunov reveals what iodine to take after nuclear explosion

The announcement that reserves will be increased to two million tablets, which help protect against thyroid cancer for at-risk groups in the event of radioactive fallout, was made today by the Danish Health and Medicines Authority. They said that the decision to increase the size of the stockpile was based on an analysis of the potential impacts of a nuclear incident in the vicinity of Denmark. This, they noted, could include accidents involving either a nuclear power plant in a nearby country like Germany or Sweden — Denmark has no nuclear plants of its own — or a nuclear-powered vessel in Danish waters.

In a statement, the agency said: “The course of COVID-19 in the last two years has shown us that it is important to be prepared.

“The war in Ukraine has shown us that the world is unpredictable.

“The National Board of Health has reassessed the framework for Denmark’s iodine preparedness, which must be able to be used in the event of a nuclear accident in our immediate area.”

Iodine tablets, they added, “must be in stock and can be distributed to at-risk groups in the event that Denmark is hit by a serious spill that contains iodine from a nuclear power plant or a spill in our immediate area.”

Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told Reuters that his country is more than 560 miles from the nearest nuclear power plant in Ukraine — and therefore posed no concrete risk to Denmark.

Vladimir Putin and anti-radiation pills

Denmark is increasing its stockpile of iodine tablets as Russian nuclear fears soar (Image: GETTY WIKICC)

An illustration of thyroid cancer

Iodine tablets can help protect at-risk groups from developing thyroid cancer in a nuclear disaster (Image: Getty Images)

In the event of a nuclear disaster, iodine tablets can help protect against the risks of thyroid cancer in the long-term by temporarily saturating the thyroid with iodine for 24 hours.

This then blocks the gland from taking up any iodine-131 — a highly radioactive form of the element — which might enter the body via contaminated air, food or water.

In this way, the tablets provide time to seek shelter from exposure to this radioactive isotope, which has a half-life of around eight days.

Cases of thyroid cancer were seen to spike in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown among infants and children in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine who had been exposed to radioactive fallout at the time of the disaster.

Iodine tablets only work on the thyroid and do not protect against other common radioactive elements that can be produced in a nuclear disaster — such as caesium-137 or strontium-90.

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Iodine tablets

Iodine tablets saturate the thyroid so it can’t take in any radioactive iodine-131 (Image: Getty Images)

A map of Ukraine's Nuclear Power Plants

Magnus Heunicke told Reuters that Denmark is more than 560 miles from Ukraine’s nuclear power plants (Image:

The World Health Organisation has recommended that iodine tablets be used by at-risk groups in the event of a nuclear disaster.

Accordingly, the Danish Health and Medicines Authority have said that its stockpile — should it ever be needed — would be distributed to those aged 18 and under, pregnant and breastfeeding women and health and emergency personnel under the age of 40.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control, adults over the age of 40 have a much lower risk of developing thyroid cancer and, in fact, are more likely to have thyroid issues that would be exacerbated by taking potassium iodide tablets.

They added that iodine tablets can, if taken to excess, lead to “severe illness or death”.

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The Health and Medicines Authority reported that contracts have already been drawn up with Danish pharmaceutical manufacturers to deliver the additional iodine tablets needed.

The first batch of the emergency reserve is expected to become available in the next two–three months, they said.

They added: “In parallel with the procurement, work is underway to establish a distribution model.”

Back in February, thousands of packs of iodine tablets were collected from pharmacies by citizens in Belgium — where such have been available for free since 2018 — after news broke that Russia had both invaded the Chernobyl area and raised the alert level of its nuclear forces.

An infographic about Russia's nuclear arsenal

Putin warned that Western intervention in the war would reap ‘consequences you have never seen.’ (Image:

The menace of nuclear warfare was put on the table by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of his invasion of Ukraine.

He warned the West that their intervention in the war would reap “consequences you have never seen”.

While some analysts treated the comment as bluster — and an attempt to divert attention from early failures by Russian forces — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was keen to stress otherwise.

He said: “Russia is deliberating bragging they can destroy with nuclear weapons, not only a certain country but the entire planet.”

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