Fears of nuclear war lead to a rush to buy potassium iodide tablets

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter Briefing of story ideas on coronavirus and other hot topics for journalists, written by Senior Professor Al Tompkins. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

Global concern over whether humanity might be out of whack enough to start nuclear war is leading to a rush to buy potassium iodide pills.

This is the 2022 version of the duck and blanket drills school children learned during the Cold War. And it can be just about as useful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains:

KI (potassium iodide) is a stable (non-radioactive) iodine salt that can help prevent radioactive iodine from being taken up by the thyroid gland, thereby protecting this gland from radiation damage.

The thyroid gland is the part of the body most sensitive to radioactive iodine.

Wealth reports:

In Belgium, nearly 30,000 residents went to pharmacies for free pills following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement to put his nuclear deterrent forces on high alert and recent fighting in the nuclear power plants in Ukraine, according to the Brussels Times.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that there had been a 100x increase in demand for tablets in Finland since Russia invaded Ukraine, with pharmacies running out of stock across the country.

OK, let’s slow down here. The CDC says, “People should only take KI (potassium iodide) on the advice of public health or emergency management officials. There are health risks associated with taking KI. …Taking (potassium iodide) more often than recommended does not provide more protection and may result in serious illness or death.

Survival gear websites report that they are out of stock, although I have queried many other supplement and survival gear sites that seem to have a lot.

(doomsdayprep.com)

If you’re over 40, the pills won’t do much for you, according to the CDC.

These pills do not protect against other effects of a nuclear explosion, including fires and caesium-137 or strontium-90 carcinogens. You can add to this list water contamination, structural devastation, starvation, nuclear winter and a long list of other horrors that a nuclear war would bring. Your thyroid may be the least of your worries.

The New Republic adds to this madness:

Predictably, the Readiness Cycle returned with the threat of World War III, though the talking points are particularly ridiculous when presented alongside the potential threat.

The manager of a survival shelter company in Texas says he has already sold five bunkers since late February, each costing between $70,000 and $240,000. A company selling freeze-dried meals has released a color-coded map of caves across the United States that could reduce the risk of radiation poisoning if a person manages to “go deep” and have enough supplies. It also sells kits that claim to remove radiation from the food it supplies at a discount of $74.99.

Let’s put the rush for these pills in some context. Here’s how many nuclear-armed countries in the world have on hand:

(swissinfo.ch)

A Swiss science website cites Stephen Herzog, a researcher at the Center for Security Studies at the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich. What he says is sobering enough to prevent any sane person from considering nuclear weapons as a means of resolving conflict:

But even deploying only a small part of this arsenal would have devastating long-term consequences.

“The atmospheric overpressure caused by the shock wave of the nuclear explosion would be capable of destroying entire buildings up to tens of kilometers away, except those made of hardened reinforced concrete,” he explains.

Hundreds of thousands of people could be instantly killed or injured by debris or collapsing buildings. In addition, the explosion would create visible, infrared and ultraviolet light waves which would combine to produce a kind of large, very hot ball of fire capable of burning everything and creating third degree burns in an even greater radius than the damage. caused by the explosion.

Contaminated populations would face subsequent radioactive fallout, which can cause tumors and birth defects.

Today’s atomic weapons technology makes it possible to wipe out entire metropolises even over great distances. “Every major city in the United States is potentially half an hour away from destruction, and every major NATO city in Europe is about 20 minutes away from destruction by one of these ballistic missiles,” Herzog says.

So what are these iodine pills good for? Maybe the pandemic has taught us some things. When things get out of our control, we seem to have to do Somethingalthough there is not much evidence that Something Is usefull. How many gallons of bleach have been sold to people who wiped down every inch of their homes and offices to fight COVID-19, only to find the virus doesn’t travel that way?

Experts say they could be useful for dosing children after a nuclear power plant accident. But even then, the pills would be coupled with mass evacuations and the surrounding area would be uninhabitable for decades. In short, experts say don’t think a bottle of iodine pills will protect you from a nuclear war any more than hiding under a desk did when I was a kid.

Today’s national story will likely focus on the Consumer Price Index numbers which, while ugly, will not capture the most recent increases in the price of gasoline over the past two weeks. . The figures will represent the inflation rate in February.

The CPI is based on a Department of Labor survey of thousands of retail stores, service establishments, rental units, and medical offices across the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics studies the prices of 80,000 goods and services throughout the month.

But Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, when the average gasoline price was $3.53 a gallon, 70 cents lower than today.

Forbes argues that the inflation picture of the CPI is exaggerated, even though the government’s model for estimating inflation at the consumer level is biased. Here’s why:

The index is topped by a small handful of components. It compromises its value as a guide for fiscal or monetary policy decisions.

The IPC includes dozens of categories and hundreds of individual items. Here is a graphical representation (from the Pew Foundation) of the weightings of the main categories.

(Pew Research Center)

Some of the largest categories on this chart are also among the most volatile, including, of course, gasoline. But some of the main drivers of inflation in recent months have been new and used car prices, hotel and motel costs, and housing. Watch the ups and downs of these hotel and used car costs during the pandemic:

(Forbes)

(Forbes)

They raise the valid question of whether such volatility makes the CPI a reliable picture of the national economy. Now watch this from Forbes:

With airfare inflation (+8 standard deviations), these categories account for almost 10% of the weight of the CPI. They jumped above their long-term averages by an average of 12 standard deviations.

This skewed and distorted the entire CPI. In some months last year, the used car component alone was responsible for a third of the total annualized increase in “inflation”.

A new survey of travelers has revealed that many are worried about the war in Ukraine, especially international travellers. Half of those planning to travel to Europe this year say they have growing concerns.

But 56% of Americans surveyed say they are planning some sort of spring break trip this year. Three-quarters say they will stay in the US and 23% said they are not only staying in the US, but staying home while taking a break from work or school .

First, know that the Joro spider is about three inches long, but it is not venomous or aggressive. I’m not posting a picture because I didn’t want to scare some of you off, but if you want to see it, click here. It is bright yellow and really impressive. Go ahead, take a look. We will wait.

The Joros are not only big, they are spreading. USA Today spoke with experts who say you should leave critters alone because they eat a lot of bugs:

If you haven’t encountered Joro’s colorful and massive spider yet, you may soon discover the invasive species if you live on the East Coast, scientists predict.

The predominantly yellow spider, which can grow as big as the palm of your hand, was first spotted in Georgia in 2013. Native to Asia, there’s no clear answer as to how it arrived in the United States, except it probably came in a delivery package. But in nearly 10 years, the species quickly spread across Georgia and other parts of the southeast.

Now, University of Georgia scientists say in a study published in the journal Physiological Entomology that the Joro spider could take over much of the East Coast in the coming years.

NPR reports that the Joro spider originated in Japan and its name has a colorful history:

It takes its name from Jorōgumo, who in Japanese folklore can transform into a beautiful woman to prey on unsuspecting men.

NPR said that spider hatchlings emerge from their egg sacs and do something called ballooning, which is when they use web-like setae to carry them on the wind to new places. It reminds me of that scene in Charlotte’s Web where all the baby spiders are leaving.

One more thing: spider experts say that Joros not only eats a lot of mosquitoes, but birds apparently like to gobble up spiders, which are apparently as tasty as they are filling.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a new edition of Covering COVID-19. Are you a subscriber? Sign up here to receive it straight to your inbox.

Comments are closed.