The working group’s main concern was to highlight the potential vulnerability of young children following an accidental release of radioiodine. Inhaled and ingested radioiodine is preferentially taken up by the thyroid and, compared with adolescents and adults, young children’s thyroids are more radiosensitive. Also, such children are likely to consume greater quantities of milk, a food which can become contaminated within a few days of an atmospheric release of radioiodine.
The working group’s main recommendation was therefore that the prime focus of emergency planning against releases of radioiodine should be the protection of newborn babies (neonates), children under 10 years, and pregnant and nursing women.
Stable iodine prophylaxis has the potential to provide total protection from intakes of radioisotopes of iodine. Generally, the working group expected stable iodine prophylaxis to be planned for protection against inhaled radioiodine only. Protection against ingestion of radioiodine in foods is better achieved using food restrictions, and UK emergency plans envisage this. However, the working group advised that if, in unforeseen circumstances, the planned food restrictions cannot be implemented promptly, then stable iodine prophylaxis should be used as a temporary measure to provide protection for young children against the ingestion exposure pathway, until the food restrictions can be imposed.
The working group had wider recommendations regarding such issues as emergency reference levels, supply of iodine tablets, and information for the public.