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Fears of radiation poisoning prompt mass purchases of iodine on West Coast

by Jorge Hernandez on March 16, 2011

Despite official reassurances that the radiation leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant will do no lasting damage to residents of California, many individuals are taking their safety into their own hands and driving a sudden surge in demand for iodine pills, which protect the thyroid from radiation poisoning.

Troy Jones, a president of one company that sells the tablets, told that his business has sold 250,000 anti-radiation pills to Americans who are concerned about the disaster. Many were sold to pharmacies, hospitals, corporations and labs.

Alan Morris, the president of another Virginia company, explained to The Wall Street Journal that he is getting about three orders every minute for a package of the medication.

All of this preparation for the radiation – which is poised to cross the ocean in a matter of days – may be for naught.

"What we're being told is that there is no threat to California at this time," said Mike Sicilia, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, The Los Angeles Times reports. "It's a matter of distance. Dangerous radioactivity could not cross the 5,000 miles of the Pacific without petering out."

While the danger may not be a reality at this point, some experts, such as climatologist Bill Patzert, cautioned that nuclear meltdowns could actually result in the kind of catastrophe for which many in the West Coast are stocking.

"If we had multiple Chernobyl-type failures and it did go five to eight miles into the atmosphere and get into the jet stream, it could definitely impact the West Coast of the United States and Canada," Patzert told the publication. "But we're not there yet."

The Japanese earthquake rated 9.0 in magnitude and has left almost half a million Japanese citizens homeless. It has cost almost $200 billion in damage.

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