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Panic! At The Drugstore: Iodide Sales Surge In The Southland

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U.S. residents concerned about airborne fallout from Japan, have sharply increased demand for potassium iodide (KI), an inexpensive drug that can protect against one type of radiation damage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by preventing the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine.

While U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin commented that, "We can't be over-prepared," state and local officials are cautioning against using the drug, reports LA Now. Los Angeles County’s public health chief, Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, issued warnings against taking potassium iodide after reports of shortages at vitamin stores and pharmacies. Fielding urged the public not to ingest the drug unnecessarily, noting that it is "definitely not recommended as a precautionary medication" and that allergies and side effects are possible.

Despite drug warnings and expert assurances that California's "threat of exposure is very remote," iodide tablets are, "selling out store to store in the state," reports ABC Local. In Santa Fe Springs, Oxman's Army/Navy Surplus reported a rush of orders warranting a special shipment. Finding online wholesalers "sold out" of product, the owner expects the tablets to arrive from his usual supplier on March 28, notes the Whittier Daily News.

Some who came up empty at the pharmacy took matters into their own fridge like Huntington Beach resident Jamie Everhart who opted instead for sea kelp, remarking to CNN, "Sea Kelp is a natural source of iodine which blocks the radiation from processing in your thyroid...I figure it's better to be safe than sorry."

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Notes the BBC:

At present, the US government recommends that states have sufficient KI on hand for residents in a 10-mile (16km) radius of nuclear plants. A 2002 law, authored by Representative Ed Markey, expanded that requirement to 20 miles (32km), but the provision has never been implemented.