News

Rush for emergency supplies, potassium iodide

Earthquake-preparation items are 'flying off the shelves,' storeowners say

Local residents have scooped up emergency-supply kits, water purifiers and potassium iodide in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and radiation leak, storeowners said.

The rush for supplies, while common shortly after most disasters, has taken on more of a sense of urgency, as possible windblown radiation is expected to hit parts of California by Friday.

The Santa Clara County Department of Public Health issued a statement on Wednesday urging calm and advising that no danger is imminent.

But many residents are still preparing, buying up dried foods, 72-hour survival kits and bottles of kelp tablets, potassium iodide and seaweed. Potassium iodide can help keep radioactive iodine from being taken up by the thyroid gland, which normally stores the element, according to scientists.

At Mountain View's Orchard Supply Hardware on Charleston Road, several store shelves were nearly devoid of all emergency-supply backpacks and kits on Wednesday. Only two food kits remained. Quake Hold and furniture straps, while still in supply, were also moving briskly, an employee said.

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Palo Alto Hardware sales associate Will Turpin also pointed to nearly empty emergency-kit shelves. People are buying up gas and water shut-off tools and larger family-style emergency kits ($89.99), he said. The store has ordered more kits and doesn't anticipate a shortage from suppliers, he said.

Other customers are making up their own kits, he said.

"A gentleman came in the other day with a small child. He spent $200," Turpin said.

But Turpin admitted he has yet to put together his own kit. "I need to get something together. I did have some supplies, but I ate the food and I didn't replace it," he said.

At Mountain View's REI on Charleston Road, manager Bill Dougherty said the surge began two days after the earthquake, and it hasn't let up. Emergency-supply kits have fairly flown off the shelves, but with radiation looming, the focus has somewhat changed in recent days.

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"Water treatment is definitely on people's minds now," he said.

Large gaps remained where water purifiers and water filters costing upwards of $100 are usually displayed. A few emergency kits remained, including some 72-hour emergency-meal kits (six entrees, three vegetables and three breakfast meals). And freeze-dried foods were still in abundance: turkey Tetrazzini, spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken teriyaki and Himalayan lentils and rice, among dozens of others.

At Mountain View Surplus on El Camino Real, manager Abdi Masoudi said in the last three days people have rushed in for ration foods and ready-to-eat meals. And "hundreds are asking for potassium iodide. We're putting in new orders," he said.

REI's Dougherty said he has noticed a somewhat disturbing trend regarding the iodide products: Some people don't understand what they are purchasing and are confused between potassium iodide and iodine. The latter is used for water purification, Dougherty said.

Country Sun Natural Foods on California Avenue and Whole Foods Market on Homer Avenue in Palo Alto were sold out of iodine-containing products.

"We've sold out of kelp tablets and seaweed," Eric Davidson, Whole Foods supplements buyer, said on Wednesday afternoon.

"Forty-eight bottles came in and they were gone this morning. We're getting many calls. It's like, 'pick up line one' or 'pick up line two' and it will pretty much be for potassium iodide," he said, hanging up the phone after turning away yet another customer. Whole Foods does not carry potassium iodide because it is more like a pharmaceutical than a natural product, he said.

At Country Sun, Addie Klein, assistant vitamin buyer, said the store has a waiting list for kelp products and is getting in only small shipments. Customers seeking to ship the supplements to families affected in Japan are at the top of the list, she said.

But residents shouldn't panic if they come away empty-handed, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department noted.

"In the unlikely event of radiation contamination in our community, California has a response plan for radiological emergencies and would have access to the national stockpile of potassium iodide, which would be recommended for those at highest risk of illness," the department said in a statement on its website.

"Distance is our friend. Given the thousands of miles between us and Japan, we do not expect to find any harmful levels of radioactivity in our state. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is in contact with the state, and the state will let us know if the situation changes. If that were to happen, the public would be notified immediately about any precautionary measures that should be taken."

Potassium iodide can be harmful for some people, particularly those with a thyroid disease and who are allergic. People with seafood or shellfish allergies can be allergic to potassium iodide. For those with an undiagnosed condition, taking potassium iodide may cause health problems, the department noted.

Country Sun's Klein said she understands the sense of desperation some people feel. It's an urge she has suppressed herself, after seeing news about the radiation leaks, she admitted.

"I was a little frantic the first day, but then I started listening to NPR," she said. That provided better perspective and in-depth discussion on the relative risks to California, she said. "It's still a scary thing to deal with, no matter what or where you are."

More information about any radiation threat or about taking potassium iodide can be found at the Santa Clara County Public Health Department website, www.sccgov.org.

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Sue Dremann
 
Sue Dremann is a veteran journalist who joined the Palo Alto Weekly in 2001. She is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who also covers the regional environmental, health and crime beats. Read more >>

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Rush for emergency supplies, potassium iodide

Earthquake-preparation items are 'flying off the shelves,' storeowners say

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Mar 18, 2011, 11:13 am

Local residents have scooped up emergency-supply kits, water purifiers and potassium iodide in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and radiation leak, storeowners said.

The rush for supplies, while common shortly after most disasters, has taken on more of a sense of urgency, as possible windblown radiation is expected to hit parts of California by Friday.

The Santa Clara County Department of Public Health issued a statement on Wednesday urging calm and advising that no danger is imminent.

But many residents are still preparing, buying up dried foods, 72-hour survival kits and bottles of kelp tablets, potassium iodide and seaweed. Potassium iodide can help keep radioactive iodine from being taken up by the thyroid gland, which normally stores the element, according to scientists.

At Mountain View's Orchard Supply Hardware on Charleston Road, several store shelves were nearly devoid of all emergency-supply backpacks and kits on Wednesday. Only two food kits remained. Quake Hold and furniture straps, while still in supply, were also moving briskly, an employee said.

Palo Alto Hardware sales associate Will Turpin also pointed to nearly empty emergency-kit shelves. People are buying up gas and water shut-off tools and larger family-style emergency kits ($89.99), he said. The store has ordered more kits and doesn't anticipate a shortage from suppliers, he said.

Other customers are making up their own kits, he said.

"A gentleman came in the other day with a small child. He spent $200," Turpin said.

But Turpin admitted he has yet to put together his own kit. "I need to get something together. I did have some supplies, but I ate the food and I didn't replace it," he said.

At Mountain View's REI on Charleston Road, manager Bill Dougherty said the surge began two days after the earthquake, and it hasn't let up. Emergency-supply kits have fairly flown off the shelves, but with radiation looming, the focus has somewhat changed in recent days.

"Water treatment is definitely on people's minds now," he said.

Large gaps remained where water purifiers and water filters costing upwards of $100 are usually displayed. A few emergency kits remained, including some 72-hour emergency-meal kits (six entrees, three vegetables and three breakfast meals). And freeze-dried foods were still in abundance: turkey Tetrazzini, spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken teriyaki and Himalayan lentils and rice, among dozens of others.

At Mountain View Surplus on El Camino Real, manager Abdi Masoudi said in the last three days people have rushed in for ration foods and ready-to-eat meals. And "hundreds are asking for potassium iodide. We're putting in new orders," he said.

REI's Dougherty said he has noticed a somewhat disturbing trend regarding the iodide products: Some people don't understand what they are purchasing and are confused between potassium iodide and iodine. The latter is used for water purification, Dougherty said.

Country Sun Natural Foods on California Avenue and Whole Foods Market on Homer Avenue in Palo Alto were sold out of iodine-containing products.

"We've sold out of kelp tablets and seaweed," Eric Davidson, Whole Foods supplements buyer, said on Wednesday afternoon.

"Forty-eight bottles came in and they were gone this morning. We're getting many calls. It's like, 'pick up line one' or 'pick up line two' and it will pretty much be for potassium iodide," he said, hanging up the phone after turning away yet another customer. Whole Foods does not carry potassium iodide because it is more like a pharmaceutical than a natural product, he said.

At Country Sun, Addie Klein, assistant vitamin buyer, said the store has a waiting list for kelp products and is getting in only small shipments. Customers seeking to ship the supplements to families affected in Japan are at the top of the list, she said.

But residents shouldn't panic if they come away empty-handed, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department noted.

"In the unlikely event of radiation contamination in our community, California has a response plan for radiological emergencies and would have access to the national stockpile of potassium iodide, which would be recommended for those at highest risk of illness," the department said in a statement on its website.

"Distance is our friend. Given the thousands of miles between us and Japan, we do not expect to find any harmful levels of radioactivity in our state. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is in contact with the state, and the state will let us know if the situation changes. If that were to happen, the public would be notified immediately about any precautionary measures that should be taken."

Potassium iodide can be harmful for some people, particularly those with a thyroid disease and who are allergic. People with seafood or shellfish allergies can be allergic to potassium iodide. For those with an undiagnosed condition, taking potassium iodide may cause health problems, the department noted.

Country Sun's Klein said she understands the sense of desperation some people feel. It's an urge she has suppressed herself, after seeing news about the radiation leaks, she admitted.

"I was a little frantic the first day, but then I started listening to NPR," she said. That provided better perspective and in-depth discussion on the relative risks to California, she said. "It's still a scary thing to deal with, no matter what or where you are."

More information about any radiation threat or about taking potassium iodide can be found at the Santa Clara County Public Health Department website, www.sccgov.org.

Comments

Doctor Killjoy
Sylvan Park
on Mar 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm
Doctor Killjoy, Sylvan Park
on Mar 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I can see that the "Chicken Littles" of this area have been keeping busy.


the_punnisher
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Mar 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm
the_punnisher, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Mar 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm

" Doctor " Killjoy will be the first one who would become a sociopath when people start getting ill....

The problem with US M$M is that our " facts " really are not....

You really have to think outside the box when it comes to getting accurate data.

The best way to look at this whole situation is to look at what is NOT being covered...Looking at other countries news web sites might paint a different picture.

The better pictures of this SLOW MOTION TRAIN WRECK which is not over were released on other countries news sites; ONES THAT DON'T PRACTICE CENSORSHIP!!!

I had gotten a better picture from the BBC and different Japanese web sites....these same pictures showed up in the US TWO DAYS LATER...

I'm afraid that the data is " slightly skewed " by the time the US M$M decides to " inform " the sheeple...

It is time to face reality; the M$M data is inaccurate at best.

Are you ready to " Bet your Life " on it? You are, you know....


Radiation_Activist
Old Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm
Radiation_Activist, Old Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Also, I strongly recommend stocking up on everything Japanese NOW before the radio-active imports start to hit our shores!!!


Organic_Nuts
Old Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm
Organic_Nuts, Old Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm

[Shoppers in Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of China have stripped supermarket shelves empty of table salt in recent days in the belief that it either wards off radiation injuries or that the nation's supply would be contaminated by radioactive fallout.]


k
Shoreline West
on Mar 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm
k, Shoreline West
on Mar 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

It's always depressing how incredibly selfish people in the US are. There are limited amounts of potassium iodide in the world, and people who do *NOT* need it are buying it up, potentially making it unavailable to people who actually need it.

Here's a good chart to put things in perspective: Web Link


sheesh
Blossom Valley
on Mar 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm
sheesh, Blossom Valley
on Mar 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm

The hysteria and misinformation is truly pathetic. If there was ANY positive outcome from Chernobyl, it is a better understanding of the risk, consequences and mitigations radiation exposure from nuclear power incidents. In fact, I find it disturbing that our Surgeon General when asked about west coasters buying KI basically said 'better safe than sorry.' By the same logic, she'll soon be advising people to take antibiotics for a sniffly nose. The fact that I read the WHO report on KI's risks and benefits in regards to radiation poisoning and understood more about it than our Surgeon General days before her remarks is a sad statement. Kudos to the CA EMA spokesperson who, when questioned about the same stated they would distribute KI to those within 50 miles if Diablo Canyon had an incident.

The truly sad part of it all is that the panic, misinformation and sensationalism surrounding the nuclear incident has taken away from the true catastrophe... I find myself waiting for ONE of these media goons, when asked what the worst-case scenario is, to look back, half-shocked and say "My God, over 10,000 people have died and half a million are homeless... the worst-case has ALREADY happened. HELP THEM!"

text REDCROSS to 10999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross for their relief efforts in Japan.


Organic_Nuts
Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm
Organic_Nuts, Old Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Update:
[After panic buying, Chinese seek refunds on salt: Misguided shoppers cleared stores of the seasoning in the midst of a panic about radiation from Japan, some paying 10 times the normal prices. But few are allowed to return it for refunds.]


Stephan
Jackson Park
on Mar 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm
Stephan, Jackson Park
on Mar 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Look into dietary iodine sources. (Potassium is not germane.) Nori (like TJ's Sesweed Snacks) has at least 100 ug per gram, and some varieties have up to 20 times that. Since the DV is 150 ug, you'd saturate your thyroid with stable iodine after eating an 11.3-gram pack per day for a week or so, the I'd drop it back to a gram or two per day. The per-capita daily consumption of seaweed in Japan is (or was) 11 g, the world's highest. Going over that (short- or long-term) might be hazardous, especially if you're deficient in selenium. all this is according to credible (but) on-line sources. Look into it, folks, just to be ready. Information confers options.


Bill Michel
Castro City
on Mar 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm
Bill Michel, Castro City
on Mar 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm

The best thing everyone can do to "prepare", is to write Jerry Brown,
and CA Legislators and have them shut down Diablo Canyon & San Onofre.

People should keep in mind that potassium iodide will not protect
one from radioactive cesium and strontium which target muscle and
bone respectively. In the case of nuclear releases, prevention is
really the operative word.

Check epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides for more info.


Old Salt
Rex Manor
on Mar 23, 2011 at 7:42 am
Old Salt, Rex Manor
on Mar 23, 2011 at 7:42 am

Are these the same people who duct taped their residences shut after 9/11?
The same clueless dolts who manage to get lost in Foothills Park? On a clear day. At high noon. Without any water.
In a real emergency, we have plans to get as far away from the maddening crowd as is possible and wait it out. Most modern people wouldn't last three days on their own.


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