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Rush to Buy Iodide Pills Unnecessary in U.S., Experts Say
Date:3/17/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- As people across the United States rush to buy potassium iodide pills to protect themselves against any possible radiation exposure from Japan's nuclear plant crisis, experts stress there's no need for the pills since there is little danger that Americans are at any risk.

"Don't panic. This is close to an hysterical response," said radiation expert Jacqueline Williams, program director for radiation medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Center for Biophysical Assessment and Risk Management Following Irradiation in New York.

Williams added there is no present danger or even a likelihood that radiation from the catastrophe in Japan -- 5,000 miles from the U.S. west coast -- will have any effect on people in the United States.

What's more, iodide pills only protect from thyroid cancer -- and the protection is limited.

"These pills only protect you against radioactive iodine, and we have seen only a little in the way of radioactive iodine being released [in Japan]," Williams said. "Given the fact that it has a very short half-life, it's close to zero that any radioactive iodine of any quantity that would do any harm would end up on U.S. shores."

A United Nations report suggests that the radioactive cloud that is drifting across the Pacific Ocean, and is expected to reach the shores of southern California late Friday, will be so diluted that it should only have the most minor of health consequences, The New York Times reported.

Another expert, Dr. William Inabnet, chief of endocrine surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, echoed that assessment.

"By the time radioactivity reaches the west coast of the United States, it will be so diluted that it won't warrant taking iodine," he said.

"In fact, iodine is recommended only for children and pregnant women, even in the
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