SEATTLE - The phone has been ringing off the hook at Seattle vitamin and nutrition stores as worried customers try to get their hands on the radiation fighting compound potassium iodide.
Also known as K-I for its combined names on the Table of Elements, potassium iodide floods the body with non-radioactive iodine that then fends off radioactive iodine from nuclear exposure.
It proved very effective in fighting thyroid cancer in Europe after the Chernobyl disaster. It is being handed out in pill form to people living near the crippled nuclear reactors in Japan.
And even though experts have repeatedly said there is no current threat of a nuclear release reaching the U.S., a holistic nutrition store on Seattle’s Capitol Hill had its modest supply of potassium iodide sold out in hours.
“Oh yeah, they’re really scared,” said Rae Diamond of Rainbow Natural Remedies, “and that’s the main thing…to try to quiet the fears.”
Diamond said she is suggesting holistic alternatives for her customers while waiting for a fresh shipment of potassium iodide to arrive this week.
While the radiation from Japan is not expected to reach this country, it has revived demands in congress for a national supply of potassium iodide to be doled out to all communities near nuclear facilities.
Doctors say people living near the crippled Japanese reactors are getting less radiation that they would in a normal chest x-ray.
"I think it would be foolish scare mongering to send people out to take K-I at this point," said Peter Crane, a former attorney for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But he says this is a good time to prepare for our own disaster.
"I think the important thing about K-I is to have it ready in case there's ever a disaster here," he said.
Crane supports a revived drive underway in Congress to make potassium iodide available to anyone living near a U.S. nuclear facility.