Dr. Marc answers readers’ questions every other week. To send a query, click here.
Dear Dr. Marc,
If I seal the house, how long will it take before I run out of oxygen and suffocate? If it’s less than three days, do I really need the three days’ worth of food and water? I am never sarcastic.
San Antonino, TX
Fortunately for you, the major duct-tape manufacturer is a big Republican contributor who seems much more interested in turning a profit than in providing tape of a sufficiently high quality to actually seal your house.
Dear Dr. Marc,
The Washington Post reports that almost half the duct tape sold in the United States comes from a company whose founder gave more than $100,000 to Republicans in 2000.
Is that the secret connection between the so-called terror threat and the Bush Administration’s recommendation that we all go out and buy duct tape? I honestly cannot think of any other reason to have it around in case of a “terror attack.” I think a little Valium or Ativan would be a much wiser investment, don’t you?
Los Angeles, CA
Yes I do.
Dear Dr. Marc,
I have been reading about potassium iodide. I have heard that it is good to have around and to take it in the event of exposure to radiation. OK, so maybe this is the equivalent of duct tape, but if it may possibly in fact help prevent some kinds of cancer, thyroid I think they said, would it be worth it to find some? How much should an adult take? How about my 13-year-old son? Are there things to think about that might help if we do get fallout? I expect if we are the target, we might as well stand on the roof and watch it go. Judging from what I have seen there isn’t anything that can help at the center of a radiation attack. I grew up with this fear. I sure wish it wasn’t upon us again.
Ann Arbor, MI
The fear you describe can be treated with a sober assessment of the risks, which are very small to the individual. Far greater risks are associated with worrying about this. Does having this stuff around make you feel better? If it makes you feel better to keep around these items of limited value in the event of an almost inconceivable event actually occurring on a large-scale basis, then keep the stuff around. But know this, the risk of something catastrophic actually occurring was much greater when two lunatics like Nixon and Brezhnev had the ability to launch hydrogen bombs. We still have that capacity of course, but the only face we see right now is our own in the mirror. The way to treat the panic is to concentrate on other things–go about your normal activities, try to do something fun. Humor is a great antidote. Stay in control of your life. Resist the temptation to see yourself as a victim–we’re not victims, we have the power to resist this propaganda and a First Amendment right to do so. Arm yourself with probabilities. Remember that it’s very unlikely that biological or chemical weapons could be delivered here on a mass scale. I can’t imagine any way in which sarin gas will be blowing down your street. The delivery system to do so isn’t in place. If you still can’t reassure yourself with the knowledge that the statistical risks of something happening to you are extremely low, then consult your physician. Doctors are in the business of assessing the risks of an illness occurring. Believe me, I am not the only doctor who realizes that the pathogen here is fear. I am dispensing plenty of sedatives to help people through the night with the knowledge that the effect of all these “boy who cried wolf” alerts will slowly wear off. We will wise up, believe me, one way or the other. In the meantime, the duct tape and vaccine manufacturers get richer.