Los Angeles health official urges caution in taking potassium iodide

Amid mounting fears for possible radiation from Japan, a Los Angeles health official warned on Wednesday that indiscriminately taking potassium iodide could be harmful to the health.

“Residents who ingest potassium iodide out of concern of possible exposure from this situation are doing something which is not only ineffective, but could also cause side effects,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Director of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Among the side effects are nausea, intestinal upset, rashes, inflammation of the salivary glands and possible severe allergic reactions, he said.

“If a need should arise for residents to start taking potassium iodide to guard against effects of radiation exposure, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department — along with other local, state and federal agencies — will inform the public,” he said. “We do not anticipate this need.”

Potassium iodide

He made the call after some residents rushed to buy potassium iodide, an over-the-counter remedy which can saturate a person’s thyroid for 24 hours and protect it from the intake of radioactive iodine.

The frantic buying reportedly caused a shortage of supply at local drug stores.

Fielding tried to assure the public that the nuclear-power crisis unfolding in Japan does not pose an immediate threat to the United States.

“There is no increased risk of harmful levels of radiation exposure in the United States based on the situation at the nuclear power complex in Japan,” Fielding said.

Meanwhile, California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) said it has not detected any increase in radiation levels locally.

“This is based on a detailed review of monitored radiation levels by AQMD officials as well as other public health and technical experts,” district board chairman William A. Burke said.

The AQMD, which operates three radiation monitors in Southern California, plans to post daily updates on radiation levels on its website, www.aqmd.gov.

The U.S. West Coast is 5,000 miles (8,000 km) away from Japan and any radiation would dissipate on the way, experts say.

– Xinhua News

– Image from google

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