Ms. Herpel also mentioned that the co-op had sold out of its supplies of kelp and combu, two Japanese-style seaweed products. Now might seem like a tasteless time for sushi, but she explained that seaweed is about the best source of iodine besides those now-elusive tablets. Ms. Herpel did note that the kelp sellout could merely be a coincidence, but just in case “we ordered extra and hope it will come by tomorrow.”
Asked why the co-op carried potassium iodide, Ms. Herpel replied, “It’s for the thyroid people.” (The supplement is believed to promote thyroid health.) Asked why everyone else was suddenly so interested in the product, this being the ever-conscientious co-op, she declined to speculate. “I’m not even going to try and guess what people want it for.”
Two miles away–and 6,613 miles from Fukushima Dai-ichi–Jerry Moravian knew all about the thyroid people, and it is because of them that he could not understand why the Flatbush Food Co-op in Ditmas Park is totally sold out of potassium iodide, as well. “People take it to prevent cancer in the thyroid, but there are so many other factors,” the co-op manager said. “Like if you eat irradiated food or get it on your skin, this isn’t going to protect you.”
Mr. Moravian suggested alpha-lipoic acid as a better choice. “That’s supposed to be very effective, according to some of the researching being done,” he said. (The Observer cannot help but wonder if it won’t soon be selling on e-Bay for 10 times its MSRP, as potassium iodide now is. If so, we have some pills we would be willing to part with for the right price.)
Mr. Moravian, who has been selling supplements for years, said these sorts of runs are not uncommon. Whenever there is a hiccup at the three-reactor Indian Point plant up the Hudson, his supply of potassium iodide will sell out. And it goes beyond radiation worries. “Every time there’s a public scare, there always a run on a particular item, whether it’s SARS or avian flu or something else,” Mr. Moravian said.
He pointed out that, despite concerns about faraway nuclear disasters and diseases, Brooklynites still have no problem sunbathing in the park or eating fatty foods.
For those still looking for iodine, there is always salt, which is still in stock at both co-ops. And a saleswoman at Paragon Sports, the camping supply store off Union Square, informed The Observer by phone that they have iodine tablets in stock, albeit the kind meant for purifying backwoods water. Active ingredient: Tetraglycine Hydroperiodide. Does it help against radiation? “I don’t think so,” she said.