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Anti-radiation drug sales boom as more people worry about a nuclear threat

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Troy Jones said the re-election of George W. Bush, the Iraq War, North Korea missile launches and Donald Trump’s tweets all have one thing in common, they have caused a boom in potassium iodide (KI) sales.

Jones owns Nukepills.com and distributes the anti-radiation drug to people around the world. He said he sold an average of about 300 packs a day early last year, but in August, after Kim Jong Un threatened Guam with a nuclear missile, sales jumped to 3,000, and then after Trump Tweeted on January 2 about his "nuclear button," sales jumped to 10,000 a day.

Now, after Hawaii officials sent out a false alert of a nuclear attack heading toward the islands on Saturday, things are not slowing down.

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“We had what is normally 2 months worth of Hawaii orders come in just yesterday because of the false alarm. And today’s purchases of potassium iodide and radiation protection kits to Hawaii and the West Coast are astounding,” Jones said Monday.

When radioactive iodine is released from a nuclear event, KI is used to block the thyroids intake of iodine and prevent thyroid cancer. The drug is mostly used for children and pregnant women because they are most at risk, and the Center for Disease Control said adults over the age of 40 have a low chance of developing thyroid cancer.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recommended the drug as a prevention tool after the 1986 Chernobyl reactor accident in Ukraine, which caused a sharp increase in thyroid cancer among kids.

Chernobyl
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2000 file photo a medical worker bends over a 17-year-old girl who has just undergone a cancer surgery to remove thyroid, at the intensive therapy unit of the Endocrynology Institute in Kiev, Ukraine, after undergoing cancer surgery. Thyroid cancer linked to radiation is gradually claiming victims in the Ukraine. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in Ukraine, spreading radioactive material across much of the Northern Hemisphere. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

“Nobody disputes the fact that in the event of a nuclear accident at a power plant or a nuclear weapon, vast amounts of radioiodine would be released, and if you don’t have potassium iodide to block it, we are going to come down with a high likelihood of thyroid cancer," said Anbex president, another KI distributor, Alan Morris.

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Morris said he has also seen an increase in sales, especially after Trump’s tweet earlier this year, and said spikes like this have happened before.

“Every time something crazy happens in the world the level of anxiety rises and people tend to want to buy potassium iodide. You can actually chart our sales and you can always equate them to something that happened," Morris aid

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Both Jones and Morris said the federal government is their biggest customer. The NRC buys KI and gives it to the states to distribute to all residents living within 10 miles of a nuclear reactor.

"We’ve had foreign governments that are even more involved in our business than the U.S. government is. The country of Kuwait bought enough product for every single person in the country," Morris said.

The over-the-counter drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and Jones said it is the only way people can protect themselves medicinally.

"There are no other drugs you can take. There is no other things you can do other than shelter in place or evacuate," he said.

The CDC said they do not recommend taking it unless advised by a public health or emergency management official.

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