Japan nuclear reactor radiation causes concern. Do you need potassium iodide?

The world watches as crews attempt to stop radiation from Japan's nuclear plant. / Courtesy: MSNBC

Update: March 18th 9:00 a.m.

On the NBC25 Facebook page, we asked if you are concerned about radiation reaching our area. Here's some of the comments we received:

Susan Prosch Atkerson comments, "concerned, yes......going to get myself worked up with worry over it, no. Nothing we can do about it!"

Russ Smith says, "The radiation will dissipate before it gets even close to the west coast, let alone the Midwest. It isn't like it is going to stay jumbled up in a cloud. I think it is sad how some people are trying to cash in on the fear of others though. The health stores playing into the fear people have just so they can sell more pills. People also need to realize taking to much Iodine can have an adverse effect as well."

Join the conversation on facebook and let us know if you're worried.

UPDATE: March 17th 5:10PM

You're hearing a lot about radiation coming from Japan's nuclear reactors and whether we need to be worried about it.

Some are buying up iodine to help protect themselves.

Others say, it's no big deal.

NBC25 spoke with a health food store and a local doctor about it.

"We actually shipped to Japan today, and we've been shipping out to the west coast and even people in Michigan," says Rebekah Niman, owner of Rebekah's Health & Nutrition Source in Lapeer.

Iodine is tough to keep in stock there. Iodine tablets, creams, lotions, and literature are the hottest sellers.

But you can also get iodine from your diet.

"Some great sources of iodine are broccoli, brussel sprouts, kelp, seaweed, things like that."

Fears of radiation coming over from Japan has people wanting to protect themselves.

Local health stores say they're running out of iodine and that it'll be that way for at least another two weeks before they can be replenished.

"Yesterday we had about 150 bottles. Today we have maybe 25," says Niman.

NBC25 Health Expert Dr. Bobby Mukkamala says, "Iodine is something that's required for the thyroid gland and the thyroid hormone to be secreted properly. That's why you'll see it as a supplement. Iodized salt is the way we usually get it here in this country, so it's a recognized thing that's needed and it does have protective effects, which is why it's useful in cases like this with radiation exposure."

However, Dr. Bobby says the rush on iodine is mostly fear-driven.

"Even the people in California, or the west coast, which would be the first people to get the radiation, based on what's going on now, there's no reason for them to be stock piling it either."

Radiation is already all around us from the sun, our cell phones, and the microwave. But experts say they emit low levels of radiation that are not harmful.

Always consult a doctor before changing your diet or taking supplements.

There's a local event coming up that'll provide more information about thyroid health and iodine.

Dr. Brownstein , from the Detroit-area, will speak at the Davison High School Auditorium March 26th from noon to 3 pm. Tickets are $15 at Rebekah's Health & Nutrition Source in Lapeer, $20 online, and $25 at the event.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission says radiation is all around us. It is in the air we breath, the food we ear, and the water we drink. The U.S. NRC says half of the total exposure is from natural sources and half from diagnostic medical procedures.

Concerns over possible increased radiation exposure from Japan are causing some to buy up potassium iodide (KI). In Michigan, these tablets have been available free for residents living or working within 10 miles from a nuclear site. Manufacturers of potassium iodide are being swamped with requests for the tablets.

In Clio, MI, a local pharmacy says it does not stock potassium iodide and has not had any requests for it. However, in Flint, a local drug store says it has had two requests for the tablets.

The Food and Drug Administration says potassium iodide reduces the risk of thyroid cancer for those exposed to radiation. The FDA says it is not a general radioprotective agent. Pharmacists say some people are allergic to the substance and that it may do more harm than good for them.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recommendations to prepare for radiation.