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Threat of nuclear war sparks uptick in searches for potassium iodide pills

According to CamelCamelCamel, one bottle of 180 potassium iodide pills now costs $70, up from $30 just weeks ago.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Concerns are growing over the safety of Ukraine's decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was overtaken by Russian forces.

That fear is spilling over into consumer goods across the globe, with prices for iodine and potassium iodide pills skyrocketing.

According to CamelCamelCamel, a price tracking website for products sold online, on Amazon, one bottle of 180 potassium iodide pills now costs $70, up from $30 just weeks earlier. 

According to Bloomberg, consumer experts noted that most of the panic-buying has been seen across Europe, in places like Finland and Norway.

However, in the U.S., Google searches for “does iodine help in nuclear war?” have risen 1,150% over the past seven days, according to the search engine.

Anthony Montagnese, the radiation safety officer with Penn Medicine, Lancaster General Hospital, says stockpiling those pills isn't a solution.

“I think it's that some people are misled to think it's some kind of a magic bullet or a magic pill to protect you from all types of radiation," he said, "it only protects your thyroid gland.”

In essence, Montagnese said, iodine and potassium iodide pills, only protect the thyroid, and would not be protective for the rest of your body in the event of a nuclear attack.

“If there is a nuclear bomb...or a nuclear meltdown of a power plant...those could release all kinds of different radioactive isotopes, not just radioactive iodine," he explained.

"So KI or a potassium iodide pill could be taken to protect from just that one thing - radioactive iodine getting taken up into the thyroid."

However, Montagnese noted, "it does not protect us from all the other myriad radio isotopes that could be released or from the radiation that might come from a literal...nuclear bomb going off.”

According to the CDC's website, iodine pills should only be taken "on the advice of public health or emergency management officials," which Montagnese says, Pennsylvania is ready for in the event of an emergency.

“There's a really robust state agency that...protects against this kind of stuff...I'm on several organizations with the state in case of a radiation emergency - so these are things that have been thought about."

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