Demand for nuclear war survival products on Amazon is growing

FFirst, we were expecting take out on request. Next, we wanted fast races. Today, the hottest products on Amazon are insect repellent bags, military meal replacement kits and iodine pills, taken in the event of a nuclear bomb drop or a nuclear meltdown. a nuclear central.

The threat of an escalating Russian invasion of Ukraine, now entering its third week, has propelled the items most likely to be used in the event of nuclear war to the top of bestseller charts on the largest e-commerce site in the world.

A seller of US-made potassium iodide capsules, which have been shown to temporarily protect against the dangers of exposure to certain nuclear materials, sold almost as many bottles of the pills – 17,231 – in in the past month than last year’s 18,143, according to data collected by e-commerce analytics platform Helium 10 seen by TIME. This single seller, Performance Supplement Store, has made more than $400,000 in sales in the past month, largely thanks to a price hike of $15.49 for 60 capsules on February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Today, the same potassium iodide tablets would cost $23.48, if you could get hold of them. They’re sold out: the result of a 662% year-over-year sales increase. (Performance Supplement Store did not immediately respond to request for comment.)

All but one of the eight potassium iodide products for sale on Amazon for which 90-day price data was available saw price increases between 23% and 89%. Annual turnover increased from 35% to 8,100%.

The public demand for these products is clear. But what is less certain is the value they would bring to someone exposed to nuclear materials. “One of the main things that can happen if you have radiation or fission fragment release – things that react in nuclear reactors or weapons – is that in the short term there is a set of radioactive materials from the element iodine, and a specific radioisotope, iodine-131,” says Patrick Regan, a nuclear radiation expert at the University of Surrey, UK. Iodine-131 has a half -lives about eight days, but can become problematic if it enters the food chain.

In the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in April 1986, iodine-131 entered the food chain through cow’s milk and green vegetables left in the ground around the nuclear power plant which were then drunk and eaten. “There was evidence in children, after Chernobyl, of quite a large increase in radiation which induced thyroid cancers, most of which did not kill children but meant they had to have their thyroids removed,” Regan explains.

The shadow of the Chernobyl children has haunted the world ever since and is at the forefront of panicked preppers around the world.

Near real-time footage of Russian soldiers carelessly attacking the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has raised fears of nuclear radiation accidentally escaping into the atmosphere. Implied threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons if the war escalates have done little to quell concerns. And reports that workers protecting Chernobyl’s nuclear fuel are working overtime, held hostage by Russian invaders, are cause for concern. It’s no wonder people have been stocking up on potassium iodide pills, which temporarily block iodine 131 from entering the thyroid, but do little to protect against exposure to any other nuclear material.

It’s also no surprise that they’re also panicking about buying survival kits, like this $300 Ready America four-person, three-day backpack of supplies that’s seen sales increase 2,042% over the past year. of the past 90 days, or this $28.99 Sure-Pak SOPAKCO ready meal pack (MRE) whose sales have grown 2,036% year-to-date.

“When we feel threatened as human beings, we tend to look for what control we can take,” says clinical psychologist Marianne Trent. “Being prepared for what seems like a worst-case scenario can help people reduce any heightened anxiety they might be feeling. We also saw it at the start of the pandemic with the bulk purchase of toilet paper, cans and hand soap. We must learn to be able to calm down and tolerate uncertainty, although this may be easier said than done when the anxieties are already high after a few very difficult years. A 2021 study of UK and Irish adults showed that in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, three out of four people bought items like pulse oximeters or blood oxygen level monitors and insect repellents containing an ingredient that was mistakenly believed to help fight the coronavirus.

What’s odd about nuclear readiness trends is how prices and sales have risen across the board, says e-commerce expert Ben Graham. The rise in prices commensurate with sales of a whole range of products, as has happened in particular with potassium iodide tablets, is out of the ordinary. “We would expect brands to try to capitalize on this sudden surge in traffic, focusing on converting as many leads as possible in a short time,” Graham says. “Instead, these brands increased their prices – significantly in some cases – which would usually have the opposite effect.”

The success of such products is all the more extraordinary due to the usual operation of Amazon. Typically, the e-commerce giant would intervene to prevent product prices from rising significantly in a short period of time by lowering a product’s organic ranking on the site, according to Graham. It didn’t happen here. “From what we can see on these products, they have gained visibility with rankings increasing after the initial spike in sales and prices,” says Graham.

An Amazon representative told TIME, “We are deeply saddened by the events unfolding in Ukraine. The prices for these products have been set by third-party seller partners in our store. To protect customers and ensure that products in our store remain fairly priced, we continuously compare prices submitted by our selling partners with current and historical prices inside and outside our store. If we identify a price that violates our long-standing policy, we remove the offer and notify the seller.

Panic buying may be a perfectly reasonable response to the impending threat of nuclear war. There’s just one problem: iodine tablets won’t do much for most of us, even in the event of a nuclear accident.

“All of those things make it an easy target to say, ‘Oh, it’s radioactive, so we’ll block the thyroid gland, and you’ll be fine,'” Regan says. normal radioactive materials. They do not wash out or get rid of radioactive material, if you have taken it in. Iodine tablets prevent the thyroid from absorbing radioactive material from ingested food, but will not do anything about potential fallout Indeed, too much iodine on its own can be harmful, so think twice before swallowing.

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