The Various Uses of Potassium Iodide

Potassium iodide is a chemical compound formed from potassium and iodine. It is extensively used in the medical field and is one of the many medicines listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an essential drug. However, potassium iodide manufacturers also produce this compound for other purposes such as photography where potassium iodide is used with silver iodide to develop photographs.

The Uses of Potassium Iodide

Potassium iodide has both medical and industrial uses that are known to man.

1. Medical Uses

  • For medicinal purposes, potassium iodide is very commonly used as a dietary supplement. For this, potassium iodide manufacturers mix processed table salt with potassium iodide to produce iodized salt. Iodine is an important component that is necessary for the thyroid gland to function. The deficiency of iodine in the diet can lead to the formation of a goiter. To combat this, iodine is provided to people in their diet through table salt.
  • For patients with lung diseases (asthma, bronchitis, etc.), potassium iodide is a commonly used drug to break up the mucus blocking the airway to allow for easier breathing. This form of medication is known as an expectorant.
  • Potassium iodide is also used as an antithyroid medication that is used in preparation for a thyroid removal surgery. It is also used to treat hyperthyroidism where the thyroid gland becomes overactive. The medication works by shrinking the gland and reducing the amount of hormone it produces.
  • Potassium iodide is used in a thyroid hormone uptake blockade in nuclear medicine in combination with other radioiodinated compounds such as iobenguane. This is used in a process called scintigraphy which is a nuclear medicine diagnostic test.
  • Potassium iodide is an approved drug that is administered to people who may be in danger of being exposed to nuclear fission products called radionuclides. Of these radionuclides, a radioactive isotope of iodine is also commonly present in the radiation that escapes from a nuclear reactor, in the event of a leakage or damage. When non-radioactive iodine, in the form of potassium iodide, is administered to people in such situations on a daily basis, it has been found that the risks of thyroid cancer caused from the absorption of the radioactive iodine is significantly lowered. Here, potassium iodide can protect the thyroid gland by saturating the body with enough healthy iodine that the radioactive isotope is simply excreted by the body. However, potassium iodide can effectively protect the gland only up to 48 hours after administration, and must be consumed daily until the threat of an imminent nuclear fission leakage is no longer an issue. For this, potassium magnesium citrate must produce the compound in accordance with the WHO standards and requirements that are laid down for a radioactive emergency.

2. Industrial Uses

  • Potassium iodide is used with silver iodide to develop photographic plates.
  • Potassium iodide is used in biomedical research for fluorescent quenching which is a process where collisional quenching of fluorescent substances with potassium iodide is carried out.
  • Potassium iodide, along with iodine, is a component of dye sensitized solar cells.
  • Potassium iodide is used in the synthesis of aryl iodides in a reaction called the Sandmeyer reaction. Aryl iodides are used in nucleophilic reactions with other organic compounds where the iodide ion acts as the leaving group.

The use of potassium iodide does warrant a level of caution, as an overdose of this drug can trigger severe hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism in otherwise healthy people. It can also cause permanent damage to the thyroid gland if used excessively. Therefore, all dosages should be taken only according to the instructions provided by a certified medical practitioner.

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