The fear of a nuclear meltdown in Japan has led a number of people here in the U.S. and Canada to snatch up a drug used to protect thyroid glands following a nuclear accident.
Potassium iodide is used to help prevent radioactive iodine from causing thyroid cancer. And according to the AP, suppliers of the drug say they are back-ordered and receiving panicked calls from people worried about being exposed to radiation.
But experts say these people are making a mistake thinking they’ll be shielded if they take the drug. “There’s a lot of mythology about the use of potassium iodide,” a pediatrician and disaster preparedness specialist at Columbia University tells the AP. “It’s not a radiation antidote in general.”
And while potassium iodide is being used by those working to prevent the meltdown in Japan, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there is no need for the U.S. public to be taking the drug: “You just aren’t going to have any radiological material that, by the time it traveled those large distances, could present any risk to the American public.”
And yet, people continue to stock up. “I feel strongly there is a high likelihood we will have radiation coming from Japan,” a woman in Plano, TX, told the AP as she purchased six bottles of potassium iodide from the pharmacy.