Sales of Geiger counters and potassium iodide supplements that can block some radiation have surged nationwide since Friday, fueled by concerns among some Americans that radiation released from Japanese nuclear plants could spread to the United States.
Potassium iodide supplements — which can protect the thyroid gland if taken before or shortly after a person is exposed to radiation but do not protect other body parts or prevent damage from other radioactive substances — were either sold out or selling quickly Tuesday at several stores.
Troy Jones, president of nukepills.com in Mooresville, N.C., said he has sold 6,500 orders of iodine pills in the last four days. In a normal four-day period, he said, he’d sell only 100. Most of his orders came from customers in Washington state, Oregon and California who want to protect themselves from any Japanese radiation.
Meanwhile, companies that sell Geiger counters have been overwhelmed with orders.
“The phone has been ringing off the hook,” said Raphael Karunditu, president of California-based Gamma-Scout. “We have hundreds upon hundreds of orders, and our partner in Germany is talking about thousands of orders at his site.”
Even on the East Coast, some health departments reported increased interest from power-plant neighbors Tuesday: A Pennsylvania hotline that normally gets five to 10 calls a week about storing the pills has fielded 85 such inquiries in the past two days.