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Previous story West Coast Residents, Midwest, racing to buy anti-radiation pills Next story

Story by James Daniels - The Oregon Herald
Published on Wednesday March 16, 2011 - 2:22 AM
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Oregonians and other westcoast residents, even Midwesterners are in near panic to buy iodide pills, Geiger counters and emergency kits. However, they soon find there's little to buy and are logging into Amazon to stock up, and finding many selections there are either out of stock or backordered.

Alaska and the West Coast are closest to the site of the earthquake, but even people from Midwest states are preparing for winds to carry radiation from Japan.

Potassium iodide tablets protect the thyroid gland from radioactive material by overloading it with nonradioactive iodine.

Health experts say taking the tablets was not a good idea, that Potassium contained in the pills can lead to heart problems and giving an adult a dose of potassium iodide to an infant would be toxic.

Physics professor Ken Barish at the University of California, Riverside says it's unlikely that the West Coast would be harmed by radioactivity drifting from Japan.

In Redding, Calif., Whitney's Vitamin and Herb Shop is stocking up on potassium iodide tablets after the store said it was overwhelmed with calls this weekend from people seeking the anti-radiation medicine.

Scientists Say Minimal Risk to U.S. of Radiation from Japan but Jorgensen says Californians have no reason to panic.

"In my opinion, the risk to California is so small, it's remote."

Radiation is all around us and it's perfectly normal and safe. Bananas are radioactive. So are microwave ovens, cell phones and X-rays, even people. Every year, just walking around on the planet, each of us is exposed to about 3.5 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation. That is the equivalent of approximately 94 chest X-rays.

In order to get radiation sickness you need to be exposed to 1,000 mSv at once. For most people radiation would be fatal at about 5,000 mSv.

To put this in perspective, the radiation levels at the nuclear plant in Japan are about 400 mSv. That means you would have to sit there for two and a half hours to get sick.

Even in the worst-case scenario, if there is a full meltdown doctors said the radiation levels would be so low by the time they reached America they couldn't hurt anyone. Which is why, despite the scary pictures coming out of Japan, experts are telling ABC News that there is no need to panic and no need to run out for Geiger counters or potassium iodide pills.