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Radiation Exposure and BF

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  • Radiation Exposure and BF

    I just received a call from an American service member who was stationed in Japan during the tsunami. Her base was one mile from the nuclear plant. She is currently breastfeeding her 4 month old (1/2 BF, 1/2 formula.) They were in Japan for 2 weeks after the tsunami. They were given doses of KI but were told not to take it yet. Their understanding is that they will be contacted if it is determined necessary to take the KI.

    Her question is whether she should continue to breastfeed because of her possible exposure. The CDC guidelines only address what should happen should she be instructed to take the KI (wean and use formula) but she is concerned over whether her baby is at increased risk because she is still breastfeeding. Of course, there is not alot of literature on how to handle this situation and may be no clear answer, but I was interested in your thoughts.

    Many thanks,
    Sherri Hedberg, RN, IBCLC
    Knoxville, TN

  • #2

    First, in this specific situation, without any knowledge of how much these two individuals are contaminated, if at all, I would suggest that the mom continue to breastfeed, unless she knows they've been contaminated with I-131.

    I don't think the level is yet high enough, even in Japan, to warrant the use of Potassium Iodide. Remember, small amounts of I-131 are not really going to harm an infant, even a breastfed infant.

    If the Japanese government suggests they use potassium iodide, then I would suggest she and the infant be treated with potassium iodide, and she move the infant to formula.

    Tom Hale Ph.d.