– Iodine 129 and 131: what are the hazards?

From Dr. Sircus.com
Posted 9-2-13

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials calculated an annual thyroid dose of 40,000 microsieverts (or 4 REM) for infants under one year of age in California. Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services division of Radiation Emergency Medical Management division (REMM), a child’s dose of 5 REM is immediate grounds for evacuation and prophylactic measures. (REM does not specifically reference an infant dose) Thus, the projected government dose of 4 REM was 80% of the suggested evacuation rate.

Iodine-131, a radioactive isotope, is primarily taken up by the thyroid gland. It is a bio-mimicker. The thyroid gland requires iodine to function. In a nuclear accident large amounts of radioactive iodine-131 are released and this was certainly the case for Fukushima, especially in the early days. The thyroid gland is unable to differentiate between regular iodine and radioactive iodine and will uptake whatever chemical form it is presented with especially when one is already iodine deficient.

The negative health consequences of iodine-131 target the sensitive populations of the pregnant, unborn, babies and children up to 10 years of age most aggressively. If iodine-131 is inhaled or ingested it lingers in the body wherein it emits radioactive energy that results in internal damage mainly to the thyroid and parathyroid glands. According to the EPA iodine-131’s short half-life of 8 days means that it will decay away completely in the environment in a matter of months but with devastating affects to the thyroid tissues if those tissues are deficient in iodine.

Unborn, infants and children have tiny thyroid glands and an overall small body mass. Thus when ingested, a particle of iodine-131 can direct tremendous and damaging energy at cells at a much greater ratio than in an adult.
Critical uptake facts[1] per the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

  • Newborn babies will uptake iodine at rates 16 times higher than adults.
  • Infants under the age of one have an eight times higher uptake than adults.
  • Five-year-old children have four times the adult uptake rate.
  • Pregnant mothers have increased thyroid uptake, most noted in the first trimester.
  • The unborn have an increased thyroid uptake in the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Nursing mothers can secrete 25% of iodine reserves to their babies.

Dr. Brownstein said, “After testing individuals and finding low iodine levels, I began to use smaller milligram amounts of iodine/iodide (6.25 mg/day). Upon retesting these individuals 1-2 months later, little progress was made. I therefore began using higher milligram doses (6.25-50 mg) to increase the serum levels of iodine. It was only with these higher doses that I began to see clinical improvement as well as positive changes in the laboratory tests.”

Dr. Michael B. Schachter says, “The treatment dose when a person is iodine insufficient is generally between 12.5 mg and 50 mg daily. Preliminary research indicates that if a person is iodine insufficient, it takes about three months to become iodine sufficient while ingesting a dosage of 50 mg of iodine and a year to become iodine sufficient while ingesting a dosage of 12.5 mg of iodine daily. However, the patient needs to be monitored closely with awareness of possible side effects and detoxification reactions.”

Iodine and Cancer


High intake of iodine is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Low iodine intake is associated with liver cancer.2] Women with a history of low iodine levels (hypothyroidism) face a significantly higher risk of developing liver cancer. [Researchers led by Manal Hassan of Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas concluded that this finding suggested a clinical association between hypothyroidism and hepatitis C, which is contributing to the country’s rising rate of liver cancer.

Dr. Michael Friedman says, “Women are particularly at risk due to environmental agents depleting iodine reserves and other agents exposing them to radioactive 1-131. After the thyroid gland, the distal portions of the human mammary glands are the heaviest users/concentrators of iodine in tissue. Iodine is readily incorporated into the tissues surrounding the mammary nipples and is essential for the maintenance of healthy functioning breast tissue. The radioactive decay of 1-131 in breast tissue may be a significant factor in the initiation and progression of both breast cancer and some types of breast nodules.”

The Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology Volume 50, Issue 3, 2013 contains a paper titled Source term estimation of atmospheric release due to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident by atmospheric and oceanic dispersion simulations. Using the best available data and models it provides new estimates for the total quantity of I-131 and Cs-137 that was released into the atmosphere by the events at Fukushima Dai-ichi during the period from March 12 – March 20, 2013.[3] This report shows that the total amounts of I-131 and Cs-137. discharged into the atmosphere from 5 JST (Japan Standard Time)  on March 12 to 0 JST on March 20 were estimated to be approximately 2.0 × 1017 and 1.3 × 1016 Bq, respectively.

Iodine -129 – A Growing Radiological Risk

While we’ve all been led to believe that I-131 is no longer so much of a threat from Fukushima, we have to also worry about the effects of another type of iodine and that’s I-129. I-129 is another isotope produced by the fission of Uranium-235. Within these fission products approximately 75% is I-131 and 25% is I-129. Iodine-129, although a result of nuclear fission in reactors, also occurs to a small extent in the upper atmosphere due to the interaction of high-energy particles with naturally-occurring xenon. Iodine-129 has a long half-life of ~15.7 million years, which makes this of significant concern when processing nuclear waste or when nuclear accidents occur.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency when I-129 or I-131 is ingested, some of it concentrates in the thyroid gland. The rest passes from the body in urine. Airborne I-129 and I-131 can be inhaled. In the lung, radioactive iodine is absorbed, passes into the blood stream, and collects in the thyroid. Any remaining iodine passes from the body with urine.

In the body, iodine has a biological half-life of about 100 days for the body as a whole. It has different biological half-lives for various organs: thyroid – 100 days, bone – 14 days, and kidney, spleen, and reproductive organs – 7 days. Long-term (chronic) exposure to radioactive iodine can cause nodules, or cancer of the thyroid.

Iodine-129 and -131 experience beta decay, which means they emit beta particles when decaying from unstable to stable form. Beta particles are moderately energetic. Gamma rays are also emitted and are highly energetic, which means that they can be detected outside the body, for example, when uptake in the thyroid is measured by external sensors. Beta particles easily pass through soft tissue and cause damage to DNA by literally shattering DNA strands and knocking out chunks of gene sequences. What makes them potentially dangerous is the localized accumulation in the thyroid.

“Due to its long half-life and continued release from ongoing nuclear energy production, Iodine-129 is perpetually accumulating in the environment and poses a growing radiological risk,” the authors of a study at Dartmouth point out.[4]

The production rate of these two isotopes in a nuclear reactor occurs at a fixed ratio of 3 parts iodine-131 to one part iodine-129. The two substances travel together, so the presence of the easily detectable isotope also signals the presence of the longer-lived one. “If you have a recent event like Fukushima, you are going to have both present. The iodine-131 is going to decay away pretty quickly over the course of weeks, but the iodine-129 is there forever, essentially,” Joshua Landis, a research associate in the Department of Earth Science at Dartmouth explains, “Once the iodine-131 decays, you lose your ability to track the migration of either isotope.”

In a news report by the Pacific Standard we see that there is now no remediation technology available for the significant quantities of iodine-129 that have already leaked into groundwater at nuclear weapons production locations, including the Hanford Site in Washington state. Meanwhile, France and England — which produce large proportions of their electricity via nuclear power — are reprocessing spent fuel and disposing of vast quantities of iodine-129 simply by dumping it in the ocean.

Ocean disposal of iodine-129 appears to have resulted in massive increases of radionuclide concentrations. Currents carry the British and French iodine-129 northward, and a 2003 Danish study found concentrations in the Kattegat strait between Denmark and Sweden increased six fold between 1992 and 2000. Concentrations of iodine-129 in some Arctic waters are 4,000 times their pre-nuclear era levels. Add to this the I-129 released from Fukushima and we should be aware that there is much to be concerned with.


Every parent needs to come to the conclusion that they need to supplement with iodine at reasonably high levels. The situation is bad and destined to get worse. If one waits for their doctors or government officials to give out warnings one will sooner or later regret it.


[2] Hassan, Manal et al; Association Between Hypothyroidism and Hepatocellular Carcinoma: USA Case-Control Study. Hepatology, May 2009

[3] Source term estimation of atmospheric release due to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident by atmospheric and oceanic dispersion simulations; Takuya Kobayashia, Haruyasu Nagaia, Masamichi Chinoa & Hideyuki Kawamuraa ;Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology;Volume 50, Issue 3, 2013; pages 255-264; http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00223131.2013.772449#tabModule

[4] Dartmouth scientists track radioactive iodine from Japan nuclear reactor meltdown; Dartmouth College; April 2, 2012

Dr. Mark Sircus, Ac., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine


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