No need to fear radiation from Japan, say health experts

  • Mar. 21, 2011 9:00 a.m.

There is no need for islanders to stockpile or consume potassium iodide for fear of a blast of radiation travelling across the Pacific from Japan, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.Last week’s nuclear disaster in Japan poses no risk to people living on the west coast of BC, the centre says. The explosions that rocked a Japanese nuclear plant following the massive earthquake and tsunami resulted in radiation being dispersed into the atmosphere and fueled concerns that British Columbians were at risk of exposure to high levels of the toxic elements.”There is no evidence that day-to-day practices, like shopping or eating or going outside have to change in terms of radiation exposure,” said Tracy Tang of the BCCDC. “It is being closely monitored… and significant levels of radiation are not expected.”According to Health Canada, the damaged nuclear reactors are not expected to pose a health risk to BC residents, or the rest of Canada. The organization said that given the thousands of kilometres between BC and Japan, any radioactive material pushed by the wind in our direction will mostly be dispersed in the ocean long before it reaches us.Still, local pharmacies experienced an increased volume of phone calls regarding potassium iodide and anything on the shelf was sold out by mid-week last week.”There were a few bottles of (iodine) tincture on the shelf and they sold out, but it is not recommended for that use,” said Queen Charlotte pharmacist Daryl Regier. “The provincial health officer has discouraged the use of (potassium iodide), and the College of Pharmacists has advised that it not be dispensed or stockpiled. It takes it out of the global supply chain… Leave it for those who need it,” he said.According to Mr. Regier, potassium iodide saturates the thyroid with iodine so that if it enters the body it won’t be taken up by the thyroid gland and won’t be stored.BC’s provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall said “It is recommended that pharmacies not stockpile potassium iodide tablets… The consumption of tablets is not a necessary precaution as there is no current risk of radiological I(odine)131 exposure. Even if radiation ever made it to British Columbia, our prediction based on current information is that it would not pose any significant health risk.”