Experts tell panicked parents: No need to stockpile potassium iodide
It’s no surprise that after the media reported on the remote possibility of radiation from Japan traveling to the U.S., parents made a mad dash for health food and drug stores and stripped them bare of all potassium iodide and iodine. Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods, CVS pharmacy–they’re all out of the various forms of the stuff. And don’t count on finding any online–as it’s all gone too.
Potassium iodide is a preventative against radiation poisoning of the thyroid gland and Americans are seeking protection amid fears that radiation from Japan could travel to the U.S. Parents are especially concerned as children are more sensitive to radiation exposure.
Joel Leu, a pharmacist at the CVS in downtown San Francisco, described the scene at the store the past few days as “hysteria”–and he says that it’s almost exclusively panicked parents who were asking for potassium iodide.
Dr. Lisa Dana, a pediatrician at Golden Gate Pediatrics in San Francisco and Mill Valley, has received several requests from parents. One patient came to her after checking the shelves of every health food store in San Francisco and finding that they were all out of tablets.
And then there are the emails flying around on the Yahoo parent groups. Here’s an excerpt from one: “I’m not usually an alarmist person, but I don’t really trust the government to give us accurate information about the nuclear threat to California from Japan. I’m afraid they will downplay the danger to prevent mass panic.”
And here’s another: “I have a downstairs bathroom that I took a look at and consider as our ‘go to’ spot in the house for sheltering indoors. It has vents in the ceiling, so I put a roll of duct tape under the sink to seal them up…It seems to me very unlikely that we are going to have a ‘stay indoors to avoid radiation poisoning’ announcement. But, scientists have put radiation detectors on the roof of a building downtown and are monitoring it…and if they are doing that then I am planning our best reaction to bad news. I have kids and am just trying to be a thoughtful, responsible adult caregiver. I am not in a panic.”
None of this is surprising as parents are worriers. We’re programmed to worry about the health of our children and the thought of a cloud of cancer-causing radiation floating over our city is downright scary. And even though I know that the chances of this ever happening are next to nil, I’ll admit that I made both of my kids eat iodine-rich, dried seaweed at breakfast this morning–because as parents we cope with our concerns by doing things that make us feel like we’re actively dealing with the situation, whether it exists or not.
But before we get ourselves worked up into a tizzy, let’s think back on swine flu. How much energy did you waste worrying about that? And wouldn’t you agree that for the most part it was wasted energy? And more importantly, let’s consider the facts:
Is the sky really falling?
Public health and radiation experts and President Barack Obama are saying that there is no radiation risk in the U.S.
“There are some dangers for radiation release that could affect the immediate vicinity of the nuclear plants, and could potentially drift over other parts of Japan,” Obama said in an interview with KDKA television in Pittsburgh.
“But I’ve been assured that any nuclear release dissipates by the time it gets to Hawaii, much less the mainland of the United States.”
Local pediatricians such as Dr. Dana and those at San Francisco Kaiser Permanente are following the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines, which “urge Californians to not take potassium iodide as a precautionary measure.
What if radiation did make its way to California?
“If risk of radiation exposure became an issue, there would be plenty of warning and opportunity to obtain the medication,” Los Angeles County, Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s public health chief, said in a press conference.
What about the U.S. Surgeon General’s warning?
Yesterday, U.S. Surgeon Regina Benjamin told NBC Bay Area people should be prepared for harmful radiation. No wonder potassium iodide was flying off the shelves.
But today, Kate Migliaccio, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services, clarified Benjamin’s position.
“She commented that it is always important to be prepared, however she wouldn’t recommend that anyone go out and purchase KI for themselves at this time,” Migliaccio wrote in an e-mail that referred to the compound by its scientific name.
“It’s important for residents who have concerns to listen to state and local health authorities,” Migliaccio said.
What if I have tablets? Should I give them to my kids just in case?
Absolutely not. Don’t give your children without talking to a pediatrician or health professional. Also, keep in mind that there different forms and dosages of potassium iodide. For example, the nutritional supplements containing iodide are different from what you find at the pharmacy.
Full prescription 130 mg potassium iodide tablets prescribed by a doctor can have serious side effects including abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and bleeding.
Right now the risk of taking high dosages of iodide is more than the risk of the fallout,” says Dr. Kent Holtorf, a thyroidologist who founded the Holtorf Medical Group, with practices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
I’m not convinced. I’m still worried.
California Department of Public Health officials have opened a phone hot line to address concerns about local radiation exposure. Anyone with concerns may contact the department’s hot line in English and Spanish at (916) 341-3947.Source
U.S. Drug Stores Report Sudden Increase in Potassium Iodide Sales
One drug supplier says it has sold 250,000 anti-radiation pills to people in the U.S. concerned about possible exposure from Japanese nuclear reactors.
Troy Jones, president of Nukepills.com, said his company sold out over the weekend of potassium iodide pills, which prevent against radiation poisoning of the thyroid gland. Jones, in an interview with FoxNews.com, said that the pills were sold to dozens of U.S. pharmacies, corporations, hospitals and nuclear labs.
“You name it,” he said.
Jones said that he has back-ordered more than a million tablets and is expected to get another 10,000 of the liquid potassium iodine. He also said that he has donated about 50,000 pills to Japan, many of them going to a hospital in Tokyo.
Despite assurances from health officials that Americans are not at risk from Japanese nuclear reactors, U.S. drug stores are reporting a sudden increase in sales of the over-the-counter anti-radiation pills.
Potassium iodide pills are reportedly flying off the shelves at drug stores in at least three West Coast states — Oregon, California and Hawaii — according to several local press accounts. The Wall Street Journal also reports that one Virginia-based supplier, Anbex Inc., sold out of its entire supply of 10,000 14-tablet packages on Saturday. Alan Morris, president of the company, reportedly said that the supplier is receiving about three orders a minute for $10 packages of its Iosat pills. “Those who don’t get it are crying. They’re terrified,” Morris told the newspaper. U.S. health officials have said that dangerous levels of radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear plant in Japan pose little or no risk to people on the U.S. West Coast. But the reassurances have not stopped worried Americans from clearing out potassium iodide supplies at drug stores in Hawaii, Oregon and California. Stores in Eugene, Ore., for example, have reported a sudden spike in sales of the pill. Janell Davis, vitamin manager at Sundance Natural Foods, told the Register-Guard that the store was sold out of the tablets by Saturday afternoon. In Redding, Calif., some store owners say they can’t stock their shelves fast enough with the tablets. “As soon as we found out people were calling and coming in and emptying our shelves this morning, I called my boss and she told me to go ahead and order a bunch,” Jan Gertner, who works at Whitney’s Vitamin and Herb Shop, told krcrtv.com. source