Energy 6 September, 2017 9:00 am   

Jakóbik: Radioactive cloud over Poland is a figment of disinformation   

Disinformation on a radiological hazard in Poland is spreading across social media. Does someone want to discourage Europeans from the atom?

The micro-cracks at Belgium’s Tihange nuclear power plant do not pose a radiological threat to Poland. Despite that, chain letters have been circling around the internet encouraging people to drink Lugol’s iodine to avoid infection.

There is not threat

The surface micro-cracks at Tihange did not impact the power plant and are not a radiological threat.

“The National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) is not in possession of any information on the alleged breakdown or on the threat of a breakdown of the nuclear power plant in Belgium. According to our knowledge, the nuclear supervision authorities – both local and international – have been aware of the situation for a long time and have not found any reason to order a sudden shutdown of the power plant or other steps of this type,” said Marek Pawłowski, PhD, the Centre’s Head of the Communication and Promotion Bureau. “We are also informing that recently – in the last few hours, days and weeks – NCBJ’s measuring instruments have not recorded any anomalies when it comes to radiation.”

Live information on Poland’s radiological situation is available on the webpage of the National Atomic Energy Agency. The data confirms there is no threat as well.

Lugol’s iodine is disinformation

Yet, a so-called chain letter started to circulate in the social media. It warns against a radiological hazard. It is a short note, which includes an appeal to send it forward and a piece of information allegedly from a source from NCBJ. The Centre’s alleged employee claims that Lugol’s solution is being distributed in the border area and advises the citizens of Poland to prepare iodine on their own. At the same time it warns about a radioactive cloud that is supposedly hovering above Poland. It also advises to keep small children at home.

Lugol’s liquid is a water solution of clean iodine. It has disinfectant properties. It was distributed after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, when a radioactive cloud reached Poland. It was supposed to protect the thyroid gland against radioactive contamination. However, over the decades scientists from the Central Laboratory of Radiological Protection (Centralne Laboratorium Ochrony Radiologicznej) in Warsaw decided that the iodine was unnecessary. However, because of the blockade on information imposed by the Soviet Union after the disaster, Poles took preventive measures and assumed the worst possible scenario. According to NCBJ and PAA there is no reason to implement any kind of security measures, even the most drastic ones such as Lugol’s iodine.

Panic in the media

The rumors on the distribution of the iodine could be caused, or surely were made more credible by the actions taken by local authorities in Belgium, Germany and Holland, which just in case distributed iodine in tablets or Lugol’s iodine to the inhabitants living close to the Tihange nuclear power plant. The issue has been made more popular by European media, in many cases it was sold as breaking news.

However, Poland’s health ministry warns Poles against taking iodine on their own as it could be harmful. “It may cause hypersensitivity reactions, such as skin rashes, swelling of the parotid, headache, bronchospasm and digestive system disorders. Additionally it may lead to, among others, hyperthyroidism, autoimmune disease caused by iodine (Graves’ and Hashimoto’s diseases), hypothyroidism caused by iodine,” the ministry warned. 

The irresponsible promulgation of unconfirmed information might have influenced the imagination of the author of the note mentioned above. It is a testimony to the potential of purposeful disinformation on radiological hazard, which could be used by, e.g. terrorists.

The false information on threats related to nuclear energy appears regularly in the Russian media, which also spread disinformation on the wars in Ukraine and Syria. It can be also found in alternative medicine and UFO fans media. Does someone want to discourage Europe from the atom?