Thursday, March 17, 2011

Salt as a Radiation Sickness Cure: SALT?!

There's been a run on salt in China. Folks are jittery about what's happening in Japan, understandably, and think salt will protect them from radiation.

Turns out, that's not as crazy at it may sound.

"Chinese scramble to buy salt as radiation fears grow"
Jo Ling Kent, CNN (March 17, 2011)

"Chinese shoppers in Beijing and Shanghai cleared salt from supermarkets shelves on Thursday morning amid fears of a potential radiation crisis from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

"Government officials and experts attempted to calm fears by emphasizing that radiation levels in 41 cities across China remain normal.

"Staff from multiple branches of the French supermarket chain Carrefour reported that their supplies of salt have been sold out since Thursday morning in Beijing....

"...Small, local and independently-run grocery stores in Beijing told CNN they have also run out of salt supplies for the first time in recent memory...."

The idea that salt will protect folks from radiation sickness isn't as daft as it might seem. Not in China. Or here in America, for that matter.

Both countries have a policy of putting iodine in the salt their citizens use.

No, it's not a communist plot. At least, the Lemming thinks that's really, really, unlikely. On the other hand, the United Nations is involved, so conspiracy theorists could probably find something fishy.

Iodized Salt Makes Sense

Why put iodine in salt? Homo sapiens sapiens needs a bit of iodine in the diet: which shouldn't be a problem, since seafood is a rich source of the element. We've moved around quite a bit in the last few hundred thousand years, though: and now quite a few folks don't live anywhere near the ocean.

We do, though, like salt in our food - so that's a reasonable place to add the iodine we're missing. In the Lemming's opinion.

  • "Iodized salt"
    J. C. M. Holman, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, v.18(1-2) (1958)
  • "Iodine in diet"
    MedLinePlus, National Institutes of Health
Back to China and salt.

"...Iodide tablets were also snapped up at many pharmacies in Beijing and Shanghai as of Thursday morning, according to state-run China Daily....

"...The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised individuals against taking potassium iodide tablets unless the government and public health officials recommend doing so.

"Iodine in iodized salt is ineffective for preventing radiation effects, according to the World Health Organization.

"It does not contain an adequate amount of the iodine necessary to prevent radioactive iodine from damaging the human thyroid gland. It would take 80 tablespoons of salt to make up one prophylactic, or preventative, iodide tablet...."

Iodine, Salt, and Getting a Grip

Before some lunatic reads this, downs 80 tablespoons of salt, and the Lemming gets sued:


That's about as clearly as the Lemming can put it.

But isn't salt bad for you? 'The government says so.'

Uff da.

Salt, too much, is bad for you. Water can drown you, when it comes to that. But human beings need both - in reasonable amounts. As with so many things, the key is MODERATION, and a little common sense.

Why do Americans keep hearing 'salt is bad for you?' In the Lemming's opinion, it's because salt is over-used in the typical American diet. 'I like a little food with my salt' seems to be the slogan some folks in this country live by. And that's another topic.

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