Thursday, March 17, 2011

Health food stores, pharmacies field demand for iodide tablets

Area pharmacies and health food stores are being flooded with customers wanting to buy potassium iodide tablets to mitigate potential negative effects if radiation from nuclear explosions in Japan were to travel to the West Coast, staff members say.

"We've had phone calls and questions all day long since Monday," said Arte Whyte, supplements specialist at Shelton's Natural Foods Market in Healdsburg, on Wednesday. "We're out of stock right now, and I have a waiting list for my next shipment."

At the Healdsburg Rite Aid pharmacy, staff said customers have been asking about the tablets for the last two days, but the pharmacy does not stock them.

"I'm not worried," said Pharmacy Technician Patricia Schaffer-Adams of the Larkfield-Windsor area. "If it was something a little closer, I would be."

Some Bay Area health officials are advising people that the threat of radiation exposure is not there, and that people should avoid taking the potassium iodide tablets.

Potassium iodide tablets are given to people exposed to excessive radiation to block absorption of radioactive iodide.

"Using potassium iodide when inappropriate could have potential serious side effects such as abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and bleeding," according to the California Department of Public Health.

On Tuesday, Bay Area health leaders in Contra Costa County issued a notice saying there appears to be no risk at present to area residents from radioactivity leaking from damaged reactors in Japan.

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