Pharmacies across Europe have sold out their supply of iodine tablets this week amid the threat of nuclear war on the horizon. Countries including France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Finland, Sweden and Croatia have all reported being overwhelmed with demands for iodine tablets. It is understood that iodine can be used to help protect people from developing thyroid cancer, which can be caused by radiation.
However, authorities have urged civilians not to take iodine unless explicitly told to by government officials and only at the guidance of public health experts.
One buyer in Belgium, Elysia Blake, told France24: “Quite honestly, I would feel a little uncomfortable not having it if something happens.
“And I feel stuck that I don’t have something I could resort to. But quite frankly, I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Another buyer, Procodiou Georgios, added: “I came to get some iodine in case there was a nuclear attack, to have at home.”
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Didier Rondin, a pharmacist in Belgium, said: “If we see a nuclear cloud arriving, we take it.
“But, in the event of a nuclear bomb though, I think we’ll have other worries rather than swallowing our little iodine tablet.”
The panic-buying first spiked during the initial Russian invasion last week.
An even higher spike in demand was reported after Vladimir Putin’s order to place Russian nuclear weapons on high alert as well as fighting near the Chernobyl nuclear site.
It is thought that numbers of buyers will rise even higher following news that Russia seized control of Europe’s largest nuclear power station, Zaporizhzhia, after it was hit by shelling.
Miroslava Stenkova, a representative of Dr Max pharmacies in the Czech Republic, which has sold out of iodine, said: “It’s been a bit mad.”
In Poland, the number of pharmacies selling iodine more than doubled after demand soared, according to gdziepolek.pl.
Maj Duchnick, a Danish pharmacist, told local television reporters: “We’ve gone from selling two to three units a day to upwards of 40.”
Dana Drábová, the head of the Czech State Office for Nuclear Safety, tweeted a warning to iodine buyers: “You ask a lot about iodine tablets as radiation protection when (God forbid) nuclear weapons are used, they are basically useless.”
Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) reiterated this, tweeting: “The current situation in #Ukraine does not require taking tablets.
“Only take iodine on the recommendation of the authorities.”