Radiation Pills Distributed Near Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident Site
by Steve Waldrop
August 19, 2002
Near the site of America's worst commercial nuclear accident, Jennifer
Albright picked up eight little white pills that could make a difference
if there is ever another problem.
"If the government's going to provide it to us as
a safeguard, We might as well take advantage of it," said Albright, who collected
the potassium iodide- two pills each for herself, her husband and two sons- at
a school near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant. Having Potassium Iodide pills
on hand is a relatively inexpensive way to prepare for a nuclear power plant accident
or nuclear bomb explosion.
than 650,000 people who live and work within 10 miles of one of the state's five
nuclear plants are eligible for the pills, which are being distributed free by
the state Health Department.
About 42,000 pills had been distributed statewide
as of midafternoon, the department said.
The tablets, which are to be taken only upon instruction by the governor-
and then, one tablet a day for two days- protect the thyroid gland against
cancer in the event of a nuclear accident. This small gland, normally
about the size of a golf ball split in half, is responsible for secretion
of growth hormones. If taken immediately following an emergency, Potassium
Iodide has proven to be effective in preventing thyroid cancer - the leading
cause of death in the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
"The most important message we're giving residents is that
evacuation is the No. 1 protection they can use," said Michael K. Huff, director
of health department's Bureau of Community Health Systems. "But potassium
iodide is an additional layer we're providing."
In the immediate aftermath
of Three Mile Island, officials prepared 237,000 doses of Potassium Iodide, but
they didn't make it to the scene for six days -- too late to do any good. Radioactive-iodine
plumes caused by nuclear disasters can travel for hundreds of miles and cover
large areas. Potassium Iodide is safe and recommended by the FDA for use in the
event of a nuclear emergency for both adults and children
have ordered the pills through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which initiated
the distribution project, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.