Maybe it's the fact that Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has already suffered several explosions, is currently leaking radiation into the air, and seems to be headed toward total meltdown. Maybe it's the fact that a cold pressure system is sucking cold wind out of China and Korea and sending any radiation straight into the Pacific Ocean. In any case, apparently, there is a run here in California on supplies of potassium iodide (KI) pills, which prevent radioactive iodine from settling in the human thyroid, which can cause thyroid cancer.
Some drug stores are actually selling out of these pills. Which is why California's Department of Public Health is monitoring the situation and wants everyone to know there is no danger of anyone in California getting dosed by Japanese nuclear radiation because the plant is so far away that the Earth's atmosphere will disperse the harmful particles long before they reach our shore.
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"We want to emphasize that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have all stated that there is no risk expected to California or its residents as a result of the situation in Japan," the department announced in a statement yesterday. "We are actively monitoring the situation in Japan and are ready to take all steps necessary to protect Californians should risks develop."
Meanwhile, officials warn, there is no point whatsoever in taking KI pills unless you are in serious danger of being radiated--say, if the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station experiences a meltdown--and, in fact, you could harm your health by doing so. "It is not necessary given the current circumstances in Japan. It can present a danger to people with allergies to iodine, shellfish or who have thyroid problems, and taken inappropriately, it can have serious side effects including abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and bleeding."
The statement didn't elaborate on what exactly public officials are doing to prepare for any radiation exposure that might happen in California, but one option would be for both the general public and our elected officials to reconsider how wonderful nuclear energy really is. I say this only to increase the likelihood that this post will receive a boost in viewership from numerous anonymous pro-nuclear-energy people who either work for Southern California Edison or the San Onofre plant itself.
Meanwhile, anyone who has more questions about radiation exposure can call (916) 341-3947 or log on to California's Emergency Management Agency at www.calema.ca.gov. You can also try praying for the people of Japan that this crisis is somehow miraculously averted.