French pharmacists report requests for iodine tablets over nuclear war fears

French pharmacists have reported an increasing number of people requesting iodine tablets, apparently over fears of a nuclear war following Russian's invasion of Ukraine.

French pharmacists report requests for iodine tablets over nuclear war fears
Pharmacists have reported an increase in people trying to obtain iodine tablets. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

Pharmacies in France that are within 20km of a nuclear site are licensed to carry stocks of potassium iodide tablets, also known as stable iodine, which in the event of a nuclear accident can be taken to help protect the thyroid gland from radiation in the air.

The pharmacists’ union has reported an increase in people requesting the medication in recent days, apparently over concern that the war in Ukraine could escalate into a nuclear war.

“Until now, there was no demand. Now, in three days, we have had about 10 people worried about a nuclear accident and asking for iodine,” Alain Boetsch, a pharmacist based in Strasbourg and president of the local pharmacists’ union, told Le Parisien.

“Some people think that Putin would be able to launch something over Ukraine and that the Rhine would not stop the cloud, contrary to what many people thought at the time of Chernobyl.”

The USPO pharmacy union agreed that: “Some people are worried, in this context of war with the possible launch of a nuclear strike or a missile that falls near Chernobyl,” but added that the requests were “far from a tidal wave”.

The union added that a distribution of tablets had last taken place in 2021 and in the event of them being required, there would be plenty to go around.

The tablets cannot be taken as a preventative measure, a spokesman added.

“They must be administered in an accident situation and only on the instructions of the authorities, at the earliest one hour before exposure to radioactivity, and at the latest within 6 to 12 hours afterwards,” reads the website of the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).

France  is heavily dependent on nuclear power for its energy needs and has 18 nuclear power plants with 56 operational reactors, with plans for more. Anyone who lives within 20km of one of these plants is able to request iodine tablets at their local pharmacy on production of ID and proof of address.

READ ALSO Why is France so obsessed with nuclear power?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France to send more mobile artillery to Ukraine

France will send 12 further Caesar truck-mounted howitzers to Ukraine for its fight against Russian invaders, Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said on Tuesday.

France to send more mobile artillery to Ukraine

The artillery pieces, adding to 18 already delivered, would be financed from a €200-million fund France set up to fund arms for Kyiv, Lecornu said in a joint Paris press conference with his Ukranian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov.

Alongside other Western-supplied mobile cannons like the German Panzerhaubitze 2000, the Caesar was credited last year with helping Ukraine strike targets deep behind Russian lines, undermining Moscow’s offensive.

The truck-mounted 155mm guns can set up, fire a highly-accurate volley at ranges of up to 40 kilometres and shift position before the enemy can locate them and fire back.

Lecornu said the new batch of howitzers would be delivered in the coming weeks.

Denmark has also pledged its entire 19-strong fleet of the French-made howitzers to the Ukrainian war effort.

France was by early December the 7th-largest supporter of Ukraine since the war broke out, according to data on military and financial aid collated by the Germany-based Institute for the World Economy think-tank – not yet taking into account major announcements of military equipment last month.

But European donors remain far short of the United States’ military aid commitments.