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Previous story Oregonians panic, rush stores for iodine as nuclear meltdown looms in Japan Next story

Story by Gordon Grearson - The Oregon Herald
Published on Saturday March 12, 2011 - 5:38 PM
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As the possibility of a nuclear core meltdown in Japan turns from possible to what some are now calling "a probability", many people are beginning to panic, including Oregonians.

Supermarkets, Pharmacies, and Drug Stores are reporting a huge rush of customers asking to buy iodine tablets in the form of Potassium Iodide as an anti-radiation cure. Safeway, Rite Aid, Fred Meyer, major drug stores, and pharmacies report an insurgent and perhaps an unnecessary demand for iodine.

Westerly winds from Japan move over the pacific to Oregon. The fear of course is that a core meltdown will carry radioactive particles here Japan. In the case of a meltdown, we'd need to closely observe upper-level winds. The the jet-stream could move radiation to the West Coast in only a few days.

Washington Health Department spokesman Gordon MacCracken said today that even in the event of a large release from the reactor, radiation would be diluted before reaching Oregon and radiation levels would be so low that there may be no need special concern.

Dr. Mel Kohn, Oregon's Director of Public Health, says there have been no detected increased radiation levels detected at this time and he does not expect there to be an increase in the near future. "Given the current size of the release and the distance from Oregon, we do not expect that to change", said Kohn. "There is no public health risk to the state."

Today, Oregon Public Health Director Mel Kohn, M.D., said, "The Oregon Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program and the Radiation Protection Services are closely monitoring information on the radiation release reported in Japan after an explosion at a reactor site Saturday."

The Chernobyl reactor was not housed in a sealed container as is the reactor in Japan.

Nevertheless, store clerks and pharmacists on Oregon say they have attempted to inform panicking customers they cannot sell the kind of iodine they would need, that iodized salt would help but they'd probably take too much of the salt and that could be disastrous as well.

One pharmacist who did not want us to mention the name of his store, said a customer became extremely angry when he couldn't find iodine tablets and began kicking boxes and tearing up the place. He left after the assistant store manager threatened to call police.

Another merchant reported a customer threatened to take his business elsewhere and stormed out of the store when he could not find iodine tablets.

The demand is for Potassium Iodide, in the form of an anti-radiation pill or tablet. Others are stocking up on survival equipment from stores such as Home Depot. News reports are pouring in about the disaster in Japan and the possible or currently in effect core meltdown. People are talking, many panicking, calling their doctor, and becoming frustrated when they cannot reach a health official.

There is much misunderstanding about iodine tablets. The assumed solution is that if your body is low on iodine, saturating with a source of stable iodide prior to exposure can help stop the absorption of deadly radioactive iodine.

If the body does not need iodine, it will take in less radioactive iodine.

Potassium Iodide, taken orally before or even after exposure, may help protect the thyroid from ingested radioactive iodine from exposure levels, which could drift over the pacific and reach Oregon. It could help to prevent thyroid cancer. OSU councilors when called suggest not to panic at this time.

Even multivitamins can help if you don't have access to potassium iodide supplement. Radioactive cesium and iodine, if released in significant quantities into the environment, can replace non-radioactive potassium and iodine in the body. An Oregon State Health coordinator, Richard Johnson said, "I want to emphasize that there's no reason to think at this time that this will become another Chernobyl. We've come a long way since then and there are world experts at play, working to cool the core. Panic only makes us think less logically."