Scared Americans Stock Up on Anti-Radiation Pills

Potassium iodide, Geiger counters flying off the shelves
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2011 6:51 AM CDT
Pharmacist Donna Barsky measures potassium iodide for a prescription at the Texas Star Pharmacy.   (AP Photo/Richard Matthews)

(Newser) – An ocean away from the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan, worried Americans are stocking up on Geiger counters and supplements that can block one effect of radiation exposure. Pharmacies around the country are rapidly running out of potassium iodide, which can protect the thyroid gland from radiation damage, the AP reports.

Suppliers say they are receiving calls from panicked customers, but experts say Americans shouldn't worry about being exposed to radiation from Japan, and shouldn't bother buying potassium iodide unless they live near a nuclear plant. "I think it's exceedingly improbable—I'd say impossible—that this accident would deliver any detectable amount of radiation at ground level in the United States," a nuclear expert tells the Los Angeles Times. "It would be barely detectable and have absolutely no health consequences."

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