Americans, Stop Stockpiling Potassium Iodide.

March 19th, 2011, byTamika Thompson

Potassium Iodide

You would think that statements from President Obama and the commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would keep people calm. In his address on Thursday, President Obama said:

“…I know that many Americans are also worried about the potential risks to the United States. So I want to be very clear…We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific. That is the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts.”

But those statements have fallen on deaf ears as panicked (and, dare I say, ill-informed) Americans have bought up potassium iodide as if their lives depended on it (literally).

While the tablets can protect the thyroid from absorption of radioactive iodine that is released in a nuclear crisis, the West Coast folks who are popping and/or stockpiling the pills are not going to come into contact with levels high enough to warrant the consumption of the pills.

I spoke with UC Berkeley Nuclear Engineering professor Peter Hosemann to get his take on the run on potassium iodide. Hosemann says that Americans should not be so concerned.

“Buying and stocking of the iodide is a bad thing,” Hosemann says. “People can have medical and allergic reactions to these drugs, and they far outweigh any harm any radiation can potentially do to us here.”

I reminded him that people on the West Coast of the United States are afraid that radioactive material being released from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant could blow 4,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean this weekend and make us all sick. Our increased radiation level would be measurable, after all.

“Are we going to measure something?” Hosemann asks. “Yes, we’re going to measure something. Is it health threatening? No.”

Let’s see if anyone listens.

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Last modified: May 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm