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Reaction to Japan radiation safe?

Potassium Iodide not a good idea, pharmacy officials say
By: Bridget Jones Journal Staff Writer
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Local residents have mixed feelings about taking supplements as a result of fear building from Japan’s nuclear breakdown. Teresa Gonzales, assistant manager at Sunrise Natural Foods in Auburn, said the store has sold out of potassium iodide caplets and other kelp supplements, and people are still asking for them. “Oh my goodness, tons of people,” Gonzales said this week. “We usually stock one potassium iodide that is the isolated nutrient by itself. We have sold every kelp (supplement); everything in our store is gone. Now we have page after page of people in our special order book.” Gonzales said the store has a table of various seaweed supplements that also put smaller amounts of iodide in the system. According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, potassium iodide is a salt of stable iodine. “Stable iodine is an important chemical needed by the body to make thyroid hormones,” the CDC’s website says. “Most of the stable iodine in our bodies comes from the food we eat.” When taken after a radiological or nuclear event, potassium iodide blocks radioactive iodine from affecting the thyroid gland, but it does not prevent radioactive iodine from entering the body or protect other parts of the body, according to the CDC. Gonzales said someone who has a deficiency in potassium iodide might come in to the store to buy it, but it doesn’t usually fly off the shelves. “It’s rare that someone comes in to take it,” she said. Liz Briggs, a co-owner of Auburn Drug, said the store doesn’t sell the caplets, and they have only had a couple of people asking about them. Briggs said store employees are not worried about the effects of radiation. “I don’t think we are in danger,” Briggs said. “By the time it crosses the ocean it completely dilutes. Sometimes taking potassium iodide can cause more problems than not.” Auburn resident Rodney Miller said he wouldn’t take the caplets and he wouldn’t give them to his kids. “I don’t think the radiation is going to impact us here locally in Auburn,” Miller said. “I think our government has done a good job protecting and informing us.” Auburn resident Alan D’Elia said he thinks radiation is a topic of concern, but not in the local area. “I am concerned, but nothing I have seen anywhere indicates there is any reason for us to be concerned here,” D’Elia said. D’Elia said he would not take potassium iodide caplets and he thinks people should talk to their doctors before taking anything. “I think it is very dangerous for people to be taking those,” D’Elia said. “You can do serious damage to your health. Self-medicating is very dangerous.” According to the California Department of Public Health, no harmful radiation is expected to reach California from Japan. Some negative side effects of potassium iodide can include abnormal hearth rhythms, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and bleeding, according to the department. Tom Husak, owner of Skyridge Pharmacy, said the store doesn’t sell the caplets, and has only had a handful of customers asking about them. Husak said he doesn’t think community members should be concerned and should consult their doctors if they are. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ---------- An engineer’s take on the situation Roseville resident Cheryl Bly-Chester, who recently ran for Assembly District 4, is an MIT-certified nuclear reactor safety consultant. Bly-Chester said residents should not be worried about radiation from Japan, because it will make governments look at their own nuclear systems more thoroughly. “The Japan crisis will actually make nuclear power world-wide more safe,” Bly-Chester said. “What they are fighting in Japan is two-fold. It’s the disaster itself and fear making people not react rationally.” Bly-Chester said although she doesn’t think anyone should take potassium iodide, if it eases some of their fears, they should buy it. “If for some reason it makes people feel safer to have it in their hands, they should go get it, get directed on how to use it and basically never use it,” she said. Californians should be more prepared for other more frequently occurring disasters such as floods, fires, draught and earthquakes, Bly-Chester said. “There are a lot of other things that are more likely to happen in California,” she said. Residents should equip themselves with enough food and water to survive for two weeks as well as flashlights and batteries. In case communication was to ever fail in a disaster, family members should have a plan of where to meet. “This is a major opportunity for all Californians, for heightened awareness of their emergency response plans,” she said. ----------