Potassium Iodide Still Flying Off Shelves as Radioactive Plume Nears Arizona; Officials Warn Against Using the Substance


The Hi-Health clerk shakes his head at our request for potassium iodide.

"We're all out," he says, confirming what we'd already learned from news reports of the last couple of days.

"But the plume's coming!" we plead.

He laughs at our smarminess, then mentions that stores will be resupplied by March 25.

Hi-Health's Web site, as well as sites from other dietary supplement stores, advertise the coming shipments prominently.

But health officials, as we reported yesterday, are urging Arizonans not to take potassium iodide out of fear of radiation released in Japan.

The levels of radiation are far too low for anyone to need the supplement, and it could cause harmful side-effects, they say.

Potassium iodide was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1982 for use after radiation releases, according to Wikipedia. The chemical works to prevent radioactive bits from being uploaded to the thyroid gland, where they might cause cancer.

If you bought potassium iodide out of sheer panic and have now decided not to take it, you may not have totally wasted your money. The stuff reportedly never expires and who knows, you might need it if Palo Verde melts down.

The guy at the health store tells us he's not worried about Japan's radioactive plume, which is now hitting the California coast and is expected to pass over Arizona.

In fact, he says with a grin, he's hoping some of the radiation drips on a spider -- which then would bite him.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.