With the world's eyes fixed on Japan and its government's attempts to contain the threat of nuclear meltdown, Americans on the west coast are left wondering if oceanic winds have the potential to blow in radiated fallout in off the Pacific Ocean. Despite numerous health officials' assurances that Americans are not at risk, drug suppliers report increased demand for anti-radiation potassium iodide pills which prevent against radiation poisoning of the thyroid gland.
Potassium iodide pills are reportedly flying off the shelves at drug stores in at least three West Coast states -- Oregon, California and Hawaii -- according to several local press accounts. Expect the demand to continue growing as the nation's leading public health officials recommended residents of San Francisco's Bay Area to stock up on the little tablets as a "precaution."
While state and local officials worked to dispel the public's concerns, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin voiced her support for the precautionary measure Tuesday during a tour of a local hospital.
"We have to be prepared," Benjamin told the local NBC affiliate. "We need to be as proactive and as energetic as we can to try and save lives and keep people healthy."
Meanwhile, Kelly Huston of the California Emergency Management Agency insists that state nuclear and energy commission officials were monitoring the situation in Japan closely and says people don't need to stock up on iodine. "Even if we had a radiation release from Diablo Canyon (in San Luis Obispo County), iodide would only be issued to people living within a 10-mile radius of the plant," Huston said.
Nevertheless, the pills are now running in short supply and prices on online auction site eBay have reportedly skyrocketed.