The Association of Finnish Pharmacies has advised people against hoarding iodine tablets.
"Iodine tablets should only be purchased if there are people under 40 or pregnant people living in the household. Expired iodine tablets should be returned to the pharmacy as medical waste," Charlotta Sandler, the association's pharmaceutical director, wrote in a press release on Tuesday afternoon.
The statement came after the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health updated its guidelines on iodine tablets, recommending that households in Finland purchase a single dose for everyone who is 3 to 40 years old, in case of a radiation hazard emergency.
The recommendation led to a surge in demand for the tablets, with Finland's largest pharmaceutical chain, Yliopiston Apteekki, reporting that stocks had practically sold out nationwide by Tuesday afternoon.
The ministry's guidelines on the matter were last updated in 2002, it said, adding that the new recommendations were based on revised guidance issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017.
The ministry emphasised that the recommendation was limited to people aged between 3 and 40 years old because of the potential risk radiation exposure poses to that age demographic.
"An accident at a nuclear power plant could release radioactive iodine into the environment, which could build up in the thyroid gland. This is most harmful to children, who are at greater risk of developing thyroid cancer due to large doses of radiation," the ministry's statement read.
Yliopiston Apteekki's chief pharmaceutical officer Kati Vuorikallas told the STT news agency that the surge in demand also resulted in increased traffic on the chain's website, which has caused the site to slow down significantly or even crash for some users.
The statement by the Association of Finnish pharmacies further noted that stocks of iodine tablets will be available at pharmacies nationwide in the near future.
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