Potassium iodide supplements are flying off drug-store shelves in the United States, according to a number of reports. There are two reasons why this is not a good thing. One, experts have repeatedly reassured Americans that any radiation from the leaking nuclear reactors in Japan will not be a threat in this country. The radiation will dissipate as it traverses the Pacific Ocean. Buying it is a waste of money.
Two, taking potassium iodide tablets without just cause can be risky for some people, health experts warned Wednesday.
"All of the predictions are that there will not be enough radiation reaching Hawaii or the West Coast to be of any concern, said Dr. Leonard Wartofsky, an endocrinologist at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and a past president of the Endocrine Society. "Although in Japan, especially among those living very close to the reactor, there is major exposure and there is reason to take iodide tablets or solution."
Potassium iodide is not recommended until radiation levels are in the 50-rad region, he said. "It's not going to be anywhere near that in the United States. It's hitting the panic button unnecessarily."
In cases of true radiation exposure, the benefits of potassium iodide outweigh the risks.