Since the earthquake just off the coast of Japan, theories and speculation have been running wild through every medium available for information dispensing. And yet even as the world begins once again to learn about the truth about radiation (a subject often forgotten for decades now) we find the real complex information is often not fitting with a media intended solely for the quick distribution of information in a form everyone could understand. Will the real catastrophe to hit the United States be one of communication rather than radiation?
But communications breakdowns aren’t only a US problem but affecting consumers worldwide. In China, thousands of consumers were turned away when they attempted to return iodized salt in massive quantities to stores. Why iodized salt? The purchases had been made due to a Chinese urban legend that iodized salt would protect them from the radiation. It was only later that they would learn in order to receive the same protection as one iodine tablet they would have to eat a considerable amount of iodized sea salt. And that same amount might end up being more dangerous than the radiation itself if it were ingested.
And anywhere there’s a panic, unscrupulous sellers are making a mint. In addition to the ongoing debate fueled by lack of education on the subject, several venders are taking advantage of the perceived danger to Californians by selling a product that would normally be only a few cents per dose for far more. Despite the fact that radiation fears are more likely than not premature in California, residents are being taken advantage of by sellers on sites like Ebay who are asking up to $300 to $400 and in some cases up to even $600 for these incorrectly labeled “anti-radiation pills.”
And the fears over Japan’s nuclear emergency and potassium iodide are manifesting in many other ways as well. These pills don’t actually protect an individual from the deleterious effects of radiation. The specially designed potassium iodide pills actually only fill the Thyroid with the drug, which if taken in improper doses can actually be quite dangerous and in some cases even result in coma. Doctors have recommended the pills not be taken in doses exceeding the norm as a prophylactic and caution users about overestimating just what the pills are capable of. Thyroid cancer is the main danger potassium iodide pills hope to prevent. Unfortunately, the panic being set off by the events in Japan are prompting many to treat the pills like mysterious anti-radiation pills that will protect them from the effects of radiation. In reality, through the slew of conflicting and unreliable information throughout the internet, as with any natural disaster the only people an individual would be able to rely on for accurate information would be a licensed medical practitioner. Urban legends like these could mean a danger to the health of anyone with a heart condition.