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FTC Warns Consumers About Scam Artists' Pitch for Potassium Iodide Treatment

WASHINGTON -- Recent reports of events in Japan are causing scam artists to try to convince consumers that they need potassium iodide pills and drops to protect themselves. Potassium iodide, or KI, can help prevent thyroid cancer, which is one of the biggest risks from contamination with radioactive iodine. However, public health experts agree that U.S. residents should not buy or take potassium iodide unless specifically notified or instructed by public health officials.

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, cautions that fraudsters follow the headlines, tailoring their offers to prey on current consumer fears and vulnerabilities. The FTC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, urge consumers to consult their doctors before they buy.

Taking potassium iodide cannot prevent radioactive iodine from entering the body. It can protect the thyroid, but not other parts of the body, from radioactive iodine. Potassium iodide cannot reverse the health effects caused by radioactive iodine once damage to the thyroid has occurred nor can it protect the body from radioactive elements other than radioactive iodine. If radioactive iodine is not present, taking potassium iodide will not help.

Published March 21, 2011

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