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For years, Switzerland has distributed iodine tablets to residents living within 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) of one of the country’s three nuclear power plants.
It last distributed such pills in 2014.
Its current distribution doesn’t suggest it’s worried about nuclear war.
A recent video shared on Facebook warns of "extremely disturbing information," but the truth is much less sensational.
"The entire of country of Switzerland has received packages, mostly around the nuclear power plants," a man says in the Oct. 25 video, recounting what he describes as a report from a subscriber. "There are 5 million Swiss that have received iodine tablets in the mail yesterday or actually today, the 25th of October 2023, so she says the government must be worried about something."
He then says that iodine tablets "are used for nuclear war" and asks if that’s a "good sign, 5 million people getting iodine tablets before the outbreak of nuclear war."
This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
In reality, Switzerland distributes iodine pills every decade to residents living within 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) of one of the country’s three nuclear power plants. If a radiation emergency occurred at the plants, taking the pills would protect the people from thyroid cancer. (The iodine pills, technically potassium iodide, stops the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine that may leak from nuclear plants.)
"The campaign may seem like a Cold War relic to some," Bloomberg News reported Oct. 28. "Newly arrived expatriates are often startled to be handed a voucher for their pills when they register at the town hall. But the idea is that sirens would sound in the event of a nuclear accident so that people could take a dose before any fallout reaches them."
This has been going on "for years," Reuters reported in 2021. "In 2014, the last time Switzerland handed out iodine, it gave tablets to nearly 5 million people in 1.9 million households."
We rate claims that Switzerland is distributing iodine tablets to prepare for a looming nuclear war False.
Facebook post, Oct. 25, 2023
Bloomberg, Switzerland’s Once-a-Decade Nuclear Ritual, Oct. 28, 2023
Reuters, Disaster-ready Swiss rethink iodine handouts as nuclear plant offline, April 14, 2021
Scientific American, Does potassium iodide protect people from radiation leaks?, March 15, 2011
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Frequently asked questions about potassium iodide, accessed Nov. 3, 2023
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