State urges restraint amidst radiation worries

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State health officials said Tuesday there is no reason to believe a plume of nuclear fallout from Japan has invaded Hawaii air space. The assurance is based on readouts from a machine that sits atop the Department of Health building.

"Twenty-four seven it's used to detect the amount of radioactive particulates that's in the air," DOH administrator Lynn Nakasone said.

The department said the measuring device has shown no spikes of radioactive particulates over Oahu since Japan's nuclear reactor problems surfaced after the earthquake.

"There is really no reason to panic," Nakasone said.

But some people are panicking and emptying shelves of potassium iodide, an over-the-counter anti-radiation medicine.

At Down to Earth on South King Street, the waiting list is several pages long and some of the store's distributors are out of stock.

"One company has shipped. They've confirmed that we're getting at least 48 pieces coming," Down to Earth purchaser Christine Walinch said.

On the street, people are genuinely concerned.

"I think it's something everyone should be aware of. Am I panicked? No," Moiliili resident Pamela Zubritzky said.

"If the government says, 'Okay, it's going to happen.' Then I'll probably take some precautions," HPU student Joseph Lucas said.

Taking potassium iodide pills or liquids floods the system with good potassium so the body doesn't absorb radioactive potassium.

But health officials stress potassium iodide isn't a radiation antidote and could cause problems.

"There is a danger of people that are allergic to iodine. They can have severe reactions to the potassium iodide," Nakasone said.

The state has two monitors to measure radiation particulates -- the one in downtown and another in Hilo.

The Environmental Protection Agency is sending two more machines that will be set up on Oahu's north shore and on Kauai.

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