Run on pills spurred by unlikely radiation

Sea kelp and potassium iodide are hot commodities at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage in Grand Junction because of the scare from Japan’s nuclear crisis. Assistant Manager Cindy Clark places the last remaining bottles of sea kelp with iodine on store shelves Thursday.

It took just a couple days for Japan’s post-earthquake nuclear reactor problems to rattle Grand Junction residents enough to start stocking up on potassium iodide pills.

Grocery and supplement stores are selling out of the pills, which can protect the thyroid during radiation exposure. The belief that radiation from damaged reactors in Japan could spread across the Pacific Ocean has U.S. citizens scrambling to find the supplements, including in Grand Junction.

A dispute between a customer buying out the last of the pills and another customer who was upset that there were no supplements left was observed this week at a local Safeway store. Natural Grocers in Grand Mesa Center has been sold out of the supplements for most of this week, according to Assistant Manager Cindy Clark.

“A lot of people are buying more than one bottle,” Clark said. “Some people are stocking up to have it on hand, maybe not to use right now.”

Clark said she hopes people do their homework before taking the pills, which are only effective at combatting the effects of radiation for about 24 hours.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the pills can cause rashes, allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, toothaches, gum pain, salivary gland inflammation and hypothyroidism.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a statement Sunday saying, “Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity” from Japan.

Roy Denham, a retired environmental safety consultant who worked with power plants, including ones that used nuclear energy, is spending the winter in Grand Junction and has followed the nuclear issues in Japan closely. He said he’s been dismayed at some of the misinformation spread about radiation concerns and wants to discourage Grand Valley residents from taking iodide supplements in fear.

“No one knowledgeable has said there could be any threat to the United States in terms of radioactivity, and I agree with that entirely,” he said. “Even if there is a major (radiation) release, this would be dispersed” before reaching the U.S.

Denham said radiation in the air could float as far as Colorado, but it would arrive in levels so minute that a CT scan would prove more dangerous to a person’s health.

People living within 20 to 30 miles of the nuclear reactors may benefit from potassium iodide, Denham added.


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