New Zealand Embassy Tokyo, Japan

Radiation precautions and the availability of iodine

A message to the New Zealand community in the Kanto and Tohoku regions about radiation precautions and the availability of iodine

As you will have seen in the news, the Japanese authorities are making strenuous efforts to stabilise the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. In the interests of public safety the Japanese authorities have evacuated residents around a 20km radius from the site. On 15 March Japanese authorities advised that residents within 20-30 km from the facility remain indoors, keep windows and doors closed and not use ventilation. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has provided a Protective Action Recommendation to US residents in Japan that it is appropriate for US residents within 80 kilometres (50 miles) of the Fukushima reactor to evacuate. On 17 March the NZ National Radiation Laboratory also advised New Zealanders within 80km of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant to evacuate the area as a precautionary measure.

Low levels of radiation have been detected in food and water supplies beyond the 30 kilometre zone. These do not pose an immediate threat to human health. We recommend that New Zealanders follow the precautionary measures being recommended by the Japanese authorities.

The situation at the Fukushima nuclear plants remains of serious concern. However, the risk of an accident in which radiation spreads beyond the 80 kilometre radius around the plants is regarded as very low. Even though the risk is very low, it is sensible to take precautionary measures.

In the unlikely event that radiation levels increase in any significant way and the Japanese authorities call for people to seek shelter in your area, you should go indoors, close all outside doors and windows, switch off any ventilation or extractor fans and tune into local radio/TV for further instructions. If you are travelling in a vehicle ensure all vents and windows are closed. If you are exposed to the air, you should when practicable wash yourself and your clothes.

One further precaution is for affected persons to have immediate access to iodine tablets (potassium iodide or potassium iodate). Iodine tablets work by saturating the thyroid gland with stable iodine thus preventing the uptake of any radioactive iodine into the gland. At the moment the only people who might plausibly need iodine tablets are in the area very close to the Fukushima plant. We have already taken the precautionary step of offering a small supply to New Zealanders and their immediate families near Fukushima. There is very little likelihood of anyone living as far south as Tokyo or as far north as Aomori needing to take these tablets. However, as a practicable safety measure to provide reassurance to the New Zealand community in Japan, and as a precaution, we have secured a supply of iodine for New Zealand citizens and dependents living in Tokyo and the northern part of Honshu. The tablets should not to be taken unless authorities in Japan or New Zealand advise you to do so. This advice is likely to follow the Japanese authorities issuing an order to take shelter because a radiation cloud is expected to pass over the area.

If you would like to receive iodine tablets from the New Zealand Embassy, please reply to this email with the following details:

1. Your full name

2. Your New Zealand passport number

3. Your postal address in Japan

4. The name and age of dependants living with you (including Japanese citizens or other nationality)

5. A contact phone number

Once we receive your response you will receive a two day supply of iodine by mail and instructions on its use. You should carefully read instructions that will accompany the tablets. Note the doses, the potential side effects, and if there are any reasons you should not take the tablets without first seeking medical advice (eg are pregnant or breastfeeding, the tablets are for a baby, or you have any other health conditions listed). You should not take iodine tablets if you have an allergy to iodine or you have kidney failure (renal failure).

If you have any questions about this message please contact the Embassy on or (03) 3467-2271.


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