Chinese residents must have heard U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin s statement earlier this week supporting the precautionary use of potassium iodide (KI) pills by Californians. Many are afraid of developing thyroid cancer from the radioactive iodine that may have been released from Japan s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Ignoring their own government s reassurances that China will not be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, residents in Beijing cleared grocery shelves of iodized salt, falsely believing the iodine will offer the same protective effects as KI.
There is no chance that any health threat from the Japanese nuclear plant will reach even Hawaii, much less California, and there is almost as little to fear in China, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. Further, there is not enough iodine in salt to protect against radioactive-iodine-induced thyroid cancer. ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan adds, And think about how much salt it would take to achieve any protection. That in itself would pose a significant health threat. Plus, preventive KI use is only intended for infants, children and young adults whose thyroids are more prone to radiation-induced damage than adults. KI is only recommended for adults who are pregnant, have an iodine deficiency, or if there is a threat is of a very high level radiation exposure.
Too bad Dr. Benjamin s clarification of her previous KI statement went unheard by China residents. Yesterday, Kate Migliaccio, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services announced:
And not to her, is the part the spokeswoman left out, added Dr. Ross. Folks would do better to listen to ACSH than to our Surgeon General on this topic, it seems.