It’s sad that some people seek to profit from the misfortune of others. But such people wouldn’t have those opportunities if there weren’t potential customers who were driven by fear.
The surge in the market for potassium iodide and Geiger counters in the wake of the nuclear reactor meltdown threat, related to the earthquake that crippled northern Japan, is just such an example.
Customers scrambled to find the non-prescription drug, used to protect the thyroid from radiation, despite reassurances from health professionals and administrators that the distance was too great and therefore the risk low for any meaningful amount of radiation to find its way here in the event of a major explosion.
Unlike online companies that stockpile such items, we don’t begrudge local pharmacies for selling potassium iodide pills to customers who ask for them. At the same time, we applaud those who take the time to properly assess clients before supplying the pills.
The rush on these items in the absence of expert advice on their necessity is yet another case of conspiracy theorists run amok. That point was driven home with a situation recounted by a local pharmacist, who said a potential customer told her “the government is conspiring against us” when informed the pharmacy had no iodide pills available.
Can we draw comparisons to the bustling North American bomb shelter business of the 1950s and early ’60s? Perhaps, but the threat of nuclear war at that time was far more real than the risk of dangerous levels of radiation reaching our continent from Japan.
As B.C. public health officer Perry Kendall stated last week, humans emit certain levels of radiation all the time and are no worse for the wear because of it.
At some point we have to trust the people who regularly work with science. Failure to do so leaves us in a constant state of fear, which is a terrible way to live and leaves the door open for ignorance to rule.