Prussian Blue: A Look Into Radiation Medications

Prussian Blue: A Look Into Radiation Medications

by Aden Tate

In January 2023, the World Health Organization recommended that the world's nations focus on stockpiling radiation medications, including Prussian blue. Coming amid the Ukraine-Russian war and the repeated threats of nuclear warfare, this announcement set off a firestorm of speculation and panic buying as people began to wonder what was happening.

And for those interested in nuclear preparedness, you may have wondered just what on earth is Prussian blue anyway? Is it something you can just pick up at your local drugstore? And do you need a prescription?

We'll answer these questions and more below. Let's dive in.

Table of Contents

  • 01

    What is Prussian Blue?

  • 02

    How Does Prussian Blue Work?

  • 03

    Is Prussian Blue Safe?

  • 04

    Does Prussian Blue Have a Good Track Record?

  • 05

    The Weak Links in the Supply Chain

  • 06

    What Radiation Preps Can You Make?

  • 07

    Frequently Asked Questions

What is Prussian Blue?

In 1704, Johann Diesbach, a professional color maker, found it challenging to keep up with his orders. A local painter needed more red paint, and Diesbach would fail to meet his deadline. Necessity is the mother of invention, however, and this would be no exception to the rule.

As Diesbach attempted to shortcut his way to making more red paint, he was surprised to find that he had mysteriously created the color blue instead. Color-making was his career. Diesbach knew what he was doing when he added different pigments and ingredients, but for some reason, he was staring at a beautiful shade of blue that he just couldn't wrap his head around.

What had just happened?

He looked at the jar of cochineal he had used. It was made of crushed insects rendered into a red paste, but it looked alright. He looked at the potash he had used, which looked funny. It turns out that animal blood had somehow gotten into the mixture, and the iron from this blood had reacted with the potash to form potassium ferrocyanide.

A jar of dye made from crushed red bugs. (Image courtesy of H. Zell at Wikimedia Commons.)

When the potassium ferrocyanide was added to iron sulfate, a blue compound was the result. This blue was none other than Prussian blue, otherwise known as iron ferrocyanide.

Diesbach had created an instant success that rapidly moved throughout the European art scene and beyond. At the time, these types of blues were costly to produce, with many of them having to be shipped in from overseas. The market for ultramarine was so pricey that, in many cases, ounce-for-ounce, it was more expensive than actual gold.

People liked the color and its price, however, and by the time the Prussian army had used it to dye their military uniforms (perhaps a symbol of prestige?), the name of the color had stuck: Prussian blue.


"Prussian blue" was one of the original Crayola crayon colors. It was later renamed 'midnight blue' in 1958, allegedly because "nobody knew what Prussia was anymore."

But 240 years later, the world realized that Prussian blue was more than just something to dab onto the end of a paintbrush. Because by the time the 1960s rolled around, somebody discovered it could also be used to treat radiation poisoning.

How is a simple color one of our most effective anti-radiation treatments? Let's take a look.

How Does Prussian Blue Work?

There are multiple radioactive elements in the world, but Prussian blue effectively deals with two of them: cesium and thallium.

If a patient has been exposed to dangerous levels of either of these elements, the liver will filter them out of the body only for them to be reabsorbed again once they enter the GI tract. This process will be repeated until the substances decay.

This is an issue because of the 'biological half-life' – the amount of time it takes half of the radiation to disappear. Cesium and thallium have a biological half-life of 110 days and three days, respectively. A hundred and ten days is a long time to have a big chunk of radiation floating around in your body, and if something isn't done about this as soon as possible, it can very easily lead to radiation poisoning.

But this is where Prussian blue comes in. It can effectively cut the biological half-life of cesium down to 30 days, while thallium is shortened to 3 days, a significant time reduction that can save many lives.

Prussian blue can bind to the radioactive elements and keep them from being reabsorbed within the intestines. The radiation is then passed out of the body in the stool.

Because of the rapid elimination of this radiation, there is less time for it to cause damage inside the body. The patient ends up with blue, radioactive poop for as long as they take the medication, but they also have a decreased risk of cancer and dying from radiation poisoning.

It must be remembered that this is all that Prussian blue does. It helps to flush radioactive cesium and thallium out of the body. It won't treat the signs and symptoms of radiation illness, reverse the effects of gamma-ray exposure, or remove anything other than cesium and thallium. This isn't a wonder drug that fixes all radiation problems. But it does help to address the root cause of some of them, and that's something to be thankful for.


If radiation from plutonium, americium, or curium is the problem, the FDA recommends pentetate calcium trisodium and pentetate zinc trisodium as "safe and effective."

Is Prussian Blue Safe?

It does appear so. From all the research that this author is aware of, it does appear that Prussian blue is a safe and effective means of treating some types of radiation poisoning. This is something that's been around for a long time, and though the events where it needs to be used are relatively rare, we don't see people growing a third eye in the middle of their forehead or turning purple after they take it or anything like that.

To be most effective, Prussian blue should be administered as soon after the radiation exposure as possible. Since it is only available via prescription, seeking professional medical care as quickly as possible is paramount.

(Image courtesy of Oguenther at Wikimedia Commons.)

Typically, the dosage is a 500mg capsule, three times a day for 30 days, with the main side effects being constipation and severe stomach pain. Seeing that people who take this will expel radioactive material from their bodies, it's recommended that they flush the toilet three times with the lid down after each successful bowel movement.

The drug has received FDA approval for treating radiation poisoning, and the CDC says it is even safe for children 2-12 years old and pregnant women. There probably needs to be a bit more research here, however, to determine how it is safe for a pregnant woman (with a baby inside of her), but we're not sure if it's safe for a newborn-two-year-old. We're also not sure if Prussian Blue can pass through breastmilk.

However, this seems to be a reasonably safe drug for everyone else. And history backs this statement up.

Does Prussian Blue Have a Good Track Record?

There have been quite a few radiation emergencies throughout history where Prussian blue has also been used to significant effect.

Take 1987 Goiania, Brazil, for example.

Goiania, Brazil.

Just two years prior, the Goiania Institute of Radiotherapy had decided it was time to move. The only problem? They chose to take only some of their equipment with them. One of these chief pieces of gear that they decided to leave behind in their old building was an old Cs-137 teletherapy unit.

When two thieves broke into the building two years later, they figured that this machine could make them a good bit of money at the local scrapyard, so they packed it all up and headed out to do just that.

The scrapyard at Goiania where one of the worst radiation emergencies in history originated. (Image courtesy of IAEA Imagebank at Wikimedia Commons. )

They made their money and left, and here is where problems began.

As the scrapyard workers began to disassemble the machine, they were shocked and perplexed to find a strange, glowing, blue rock inside the unit. They passed it around a bit and broke off pieces of it so that they could take it back to show their friends and family. They didn't know they were playing around with a radioactive component of cesium.

Cesium-137. (Image courtesy of Wusel007 at Wikimedia Commons.)

A few days after the stone was discovered, the wife of the owner of the junkyard began to notice that all of her friends and family were getting sick. For two weeks, the glowing blue stone was passed around, and people continued to grow ill all through this time. When they finally went to the doctor, it was discovered that each was suffering from acute radiation sickness (ARS).

This instantly caused the alarm to be raised, and 100,000 people were monitored for radiation. The contamination was so widespread that it was even found 100 miles away. Forty homes had to be demolished because they were so radioactive, 250 people ended up with ARS, and four died within the first month.

And it was in this environment that Prussian blue was put to work. One study of 39 of these contaminated people found that after giving them the medicine, they experienced an average dose reduction of 71%.

That's huge.

If you've just been involved in a radiation accident where cesium has found its way into your body, would you like to be able to remove 71% of it? Absolutely.

In some cases, the dose reduction even went up to 84%. Minimal side effects were reported throughout this time as well.

So does Prussian blue work? If you look at the research, the answer is a definitive 'yes.'


Prussian blue holds much promise for arenas outside radiation treatments and Japanese painting. It can also be used to remove radiation from water and shows a lot of promise for assisting in the treatment of particular kinds of cancer.

What About Chernobyl?

Interestingly, this author cannot find evidence that Prussian blue was given to those impacted by Chernobyl. (This isn't to say it wasn't used here, but it is challenging to find evidence that it was, if so.) Instead, it was widely made available to cows.

Why give life-saving medication to animals instead of human beings? Well, to indirectly save human beings.

One of the problems anytime that there is a radiation emergency is that even the grass becomes contaminated with the fallout. This, in turn, can cause many issues by damaging a nation's food supply. If a country just got hit with a nuke, they have enough problems as it is. But when you add in a famine to boot? Then you add a whole other facet to the problem.

Chickens, pigs, cows – they all eat plant matter. If the plant matter they're eating is contaminated with radiation, then they will pass on that radiation to the human beings who later eat their filet mignon.

The radiation then moves up the food chain to where you now have human beings suffering and dying from ARS because they've ingested radioactive material.

Puppy born near Chernobyl. (Image courtesy of Vincent de Groot -, License CC-BY-SA)

Avoiding this fate was one of the reasons that early civil defense videos that we see from the 1960s instructed farmers to get their livestock into the barn as quickly as possible should they suspect that radioactive fallout was on the way.

And this is where Prussian blue came in.

Researchers found that when they gave Prussian blue to cattle, it actually helped them to eliminate radiation material from their bodies. The cow patties would be radioactive – so the farmer would want to ensure that he didn't use them for fertilizer – but he would then be able to know that the cattle he had would be safer to eat than they would be otherwise.

It looks like this is a pretty safe measure to use for animals as well, so a farmer wouldn't have to worry about accidentally poisoning his entire herd if he was attempting to maneuver through World War 3.

The Weak Links in the Supply Chain

There's a catch to all this, however.

When the FDA approved Radiogardase (the brand name of Prussian blue) back in 2003 for use in the US, they did so with the knowledge that it was produced by a Berlin-run company (HEYL Chemisch-pharmazeutische Fabrik GmbH and Co. KG).

Admittedly, HEYL does have a Texas branch called Heyltex Corporation in Katy, Texas, where they proclaim they are the only United States distributor of Prussian blue.

If you've been following current events at all of late, you know that Germany could very easily find itself in a war at some point in the near future.

Leopard 2 tank. (Image courtesy of Boevaya mashina at Wikimedia Commons.)

Germany is sending a lot of money and weapons to Ukraine, and their recent shipment of Leopard 2 tanks caused a lot of angst amongst the Russians. The recent addition of English, depleted uranium munitions for these tanks have only served to stir the pot.

Konstantin Gavrilov, head of the Russian delegation in Vienna, would say of the matter,

"We warn the Western sponsors of the Kiev military machine against encouraging nuclear provocations and blackmail.

"We are aware that the Leopard 2 tank, as well as the Bradley and Marder infantry fighting vehicles, are armed with sub-caliber armor-piercing shells with uranium cores, the use of which leads to contamination of the area, as it happened in Yugoslavia and Iraq.

"If Kiev is supplied with such shells for NATO heavy military equipment, we will consider it to be the use of dirty nuclear bombs against Russia with all the ensuing consequences."

Then, of course, you have Kremlin-backed Russian media specifically floating the question of nuking Berlin with a Sarmat missile – something that could reduce Berlin to a crater within less than two minutes of being launched.

If this were to happen, this would significantly affect the world supply of Prussian blue. We would likely see a lot of American-made Prussian Blue flown over to Europe as international aid (let alone for our soldiers over in Germany), creating shortages within the United States.

Of course, we still have Katy, Texas, but the point is that it appears we have one factory on American soil to get Prussian blue from, and we can look at the actions of the US government to get a rough idea as to what they think the threat level is. As mentioned above, the World Health Organization recently suggested that nations advance their stockpiles of emergency radiation treatments.

The United States has something called The Strategic National Stockpile, a series of "push packs" of food, water, and medicines scattered at strategically placed undisclosed locations throughout America. Prussian blue is one of the medicines we keep in these push packs. So while we already have a bit of this stuff stowed away, we've also recently begun buying many other things.

(Image courtesy of Maryland Strategic National Stockpile location, 2020. Note the empty shelves. )

In October 2022, the US government purchased $290,000,000 worth of Nplate, a prescription drug used to treat acute radiation sickness. This was the first time the US government had ever purchased this drug though it had been on the market for some time prior (it was first approved by the FDA in 2008).

If we look at all of these signs, it seems clear that the threat of a nuclear war is very much on the horizon. International organizations believe that to be the case, individual governments believe that to be the case, and reality may prove it to be so as well.

But what are you to do if you're not allowed to purchase any of these medications without a prescription?

What Radiation Preps Can You Make?

While the American public will likely never be able to purchase their stockpiles of Nplate, Prussian blue, or other after-the-fact radiation medications, you can quickly take preventative stocking measures. Let's look at what some of these are.

Potassium Iodide

The only preventative anti-radiation "medication" that one can purchase of their own volition that this author is aware of is potassium iodide. This is one of the things the United States government has stashed away throughout the country in the Strategic National Stockpile.


Because it works.

(Image courtesy of Potassium iodide)

Regardless of the type of radiation emergency, the odds are that you will live. Getting ARS isn't necessarily a death sentence. However, just because you could have an excellent chance of living doesn't mean that you won't face health repercussions down the road. One of these is caused by the thyroid absorbing radiation in the middle of the radiation event.

When this happens, people can end up with thyroid cancer. To prevent this from happening, one of the things that you can do is to flood your thyroid with potassium iodide before the radiation reaches you so that the radioactive iodine won't be able to bind to the attachment sites there. This helps to protect you from cancer.

Keeping a supply of potassium iodide was something that nuclear war survival scientist Cresson Kearny openly advocated while he worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (where there was a mysterious "fire involving uranium" not long ago).


Our MIRA Safety Potassium Iodide Tablets are a fantastic way to help to ensure that you and your family are protected, it has a 10-year shelf life, and the tablets are designed to make finding the correct dose as simple as possible. Inside this bottle, you'll find 60 tablets containing 65mg of KI each. Ever since February 2022, the demand for potassium iodide throughout the US has caused many issues with maintaining supply, so make sure that you get these while you can.


The FDA notes that potassium iodide can safely be administered at the same time as Prussian blue.

Radiation-Capable Gas Masks

One of the means by which cesium-137 and thallium enter the body is via inhalation. After Chernobyl, Cesium-137 and 134 were distributed throughout large segments of Europe, and it's also of particular concern when it comes to the detonation of a dirty bomb.

The point?

You want to be able to keep this stuff from getting into your lungs.

This is where a high-quality, radiation-capable gas mask and filter come into play. And fortunately, MIRA Safety has these in spades.

Looking for a one-and-done option?

(Image courtesy of The MIRA Safety Military Gas Mask and NBC Survival Kit)

Then check out our Military Gas Mask and NBC Survival Kit, and NBC Kids Survival Kit. These kits contain a high-quality gas mask, a radiation-capable filter, Thyrosafe, and a drop leg pouch to keep everything in. You can actually save yourself a bit of money this way as well.

As of this writing, the Military Gas Mask and NBC Survival Kit is $369.99, while the NBC Kids Survival Kit is $299.95.

If you were to purchase each of these items separately for the Military Gas Mask and NBC Survival Kit, you would spend $413.88 (not including taxes and shipping). This means that the Military Gas Mask and NBC Survival Kit saves you $43.89. If you bought all of the gear separately for the NBC Kids Survival Kit, you would spend $409.86. You save $109.91 by purchasing the pre-assembled kit in one fell swoop. (We don't mean to toot our own horn here, but that is a fantastic deal.)

(Image courtesy of The MIRA Safety NBC Kids Survival Kit)

Nuclear Preparedness isn’t Just for Governments

The case can be made that if others are preparing for something that appears to be coming down the pipes, it's a good idea that you consider doing the same.

We never advocate living in fear. There's simply no reason for it. You do what you can to address an issue, and then you've done what you can. Living in a constant state of anxiety and worry only causes harm. But just as you would take somebody's statement that they were going to kidnap your children seriously (and respond accordingly), there is prudence in doing the same when somebody says they're going to nuke you.

While you won't be able to stash away supplies of Prussian blue, Nplate, or other radiation antidotes, there are steps that you can take to ensure that you never need to use them to begin with.

And that's something that MIRA Safety can help you with. So check out our line of products. We know that you're going to be impressed by what you see.

Have thoughts on all this? Do you think that Prussian blue facilities are at risk? Are there other concerns you have with Prussian blue? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is thallium?
What is ionizing radiation?
What is a radioactive isotope?
What is radioactive decay?
What is triage?
Can you eat Prussian blue?
Is Prussian blue FDA approved?
Is Prussian blue still used today?
What are the disadvantages of Prussian blue?
What class of drug is Prussian blue?