Fearing Radiation, Californians Stock Up on Sea Kelp

It's an alternative to potassium iodide pills that have already sold out

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The crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power station has already prompted stores of potassium iodide tablets to run low in the United States. And even though health experts have said that there is virtually no risk of harmful radiation exposure stateside, it hasn't calmed the brisk sales of radiation sickness prevention methods.

In more organic minded circles, consumers appear to be making a run at a homeopathic preventative: non-radioactive iodine enriched sea kelp. There's enough demand, at least, to inspire a few mini-trend stories on the subject. Here's a few we noticed:

  • 'Hippies Fearing Radiation Buy Out Whole Foods' Sea Kelp' - LAist details the concerns of the upscale coastal consumer in an aggregation of a West Hollywood Patch report describing how health food stores have sold out of sea kelp tablets and dried sea kelp. "Should the radiation cloud over Los Angeles actually come to pass, some hippies will be well-prepared, after having bought all the sea kelp off the shelves at Whole Foods," LAist quips.
  • Radiation Fears Drive Dales of Kelp on West Coast - In the most authoritative take on the issue, Reuters reports that consumers are turning to Seaweed snacks, blue-green algae liquid and even miso soup and brown rice, "because of an anecdote that it helped a Japanese doctor protect against radiation decades ago." The news organization reported that a stay-at-home Los Angeles mother is now packing her children's lunches with seaweed as a radiation preventative.
  • Potassium Iodide Ran Out, So I Bought Sea Kelp - Buried in a CNN report on the run on potassium iodide, a Californian who couldn't find the pills opted for the kelp instead. "Sea Kelp is a natural source of iodine which blocks the radiation from processing in your thyroid," she said. "I figure it's better to be safe than sorry."

Kelp, it should be noted, has been cited by experts as an "excellent source of non-radioactive iodine" that might be useful to incorporate into a diet even if there wasn't radiation concerns. Just don't eat too much, writes Fox News health reporter Chris Kilham: "With kelp, more is not necessarily better. Too much kelp can lead either to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, both disorders of the thyroid gland that you do not want. So don’t decide to take 10 tablets daily instead of one."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.