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Potassium Iodide

Anti-Radiation Pills

Let's face it. We live in a changing world.

According to news reports and the U.S. Government, the threat of a nuclear incident is greater now than ever before. During a nuclear disaster radioactive particles can become airborne or enter water supplies affecting areas as far as 200 miles away, putting more than 75% of the US population at risk. The greatest threat comes from exposure to radioactive iodine. U.S.A. Today reported that "the Bush administration has instructed the military to stock up on anti-radiation pills."

Potassium Iodide offers your family the same protection provided by the government to the military and emergency workers.  Potassium Iodide (KI) protects your thyroid gland from the radioactive iodine which can be released during a nuclear accident or attack.

When you take Potassium Iodide, your thyroid gland absorbs as much normal iodine as it can hold. This blocks the uptake of radioactive iodine, protecting you from its harmful effects. In fact, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) believes that the use of Potassium Iodide (chemical symbol KI) is "a reasonable and prudent" measure in the event of a nuclear incident.

Major areas of concern include:

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CNN.com

Residents near nuclear plants may get cancer prevention pills
by Rea Blakey and Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Medical Unit

Potassium iodide, known as KI, is a cheap, nonprescription drug that is proven to prevent thyroid cancer -- one of the main causes of death after radiation exposure -- if administered within three to four hours of a nuclear release. But unlike many other countries, the United States has not stockpiled the drug as a precautionary measure.  Full story



Military Stocking Up on Anti-Radiation Pills
by Adam Entous, Reuters

WASHINGTON - (Reuters) - At the urging of the Bush administration, military commanders are quietly stocking up on anti-radiation pills and making plans to give them to U.S. troops should they be exposed to radioactive fallout from an attack or accident, according to documents and officials.  Full story



FDA Recommends Potassium Iodide
(source:
FDA.gov)

The FDA has provided guidance previously on the use of KI as a thyroid blocking agent. In the Federal Register of December 15, 1978, FDA announced its conclusion that KI is a safe and effective means by which to block uptake of radioiodines by the thyroid gland in a radiation emergency under certain specified conditions of use. In the Federal Register of June 29, 1982, FDA announced final recommendations on the administration of KI to the general public in a radiation emergency. Full Story



Ireland: Anti-Radiation Pills For Everyone
by Brian Lavery

The government began sending potassium iodide tablets to households across the country for use in case Ireland is exposed to radioactive fallout from a terror attack or an accident at the British nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, across the Irish Sea. The tablets prevent the thyroid gland from accumulating radioactive iodine, which was reported to have caused at least 2,000 cases of thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.



Tiny Tablet, Big Possibilities  
by Ellis Henican

 "In the event of an accident or a terror attack at a nuclear plant - say at Indian Point, 35 miles up the Hudson River from midtown Manhattan - this column just may save their lives. Over the next few hundred words, I will convince you to stock the family medicine chest with something called potassium iodide. You will want to make sure the drug is readily available at school and day care too."  Full story


U.S. Lacks Stockpile of Anti-Radiation Doses
By Justin Gillis

U.S. lacks stockpile of special drug anti-radiation doses. The goal has been unmet since 1979. A generation ago, as a nuclear disaster unfolded in central Pennsylvania and 140,000 people fled the area, pharmaceutical executives were rousted from bed in the middle of the night by a plea for help.  Full story


Washington: Protecting Postal Workers

The Postal Service said it was buying nearly 1.6 million potassium iodide pills to protect workers against thyroid cancer in the event of a radiological emergency. The pills would help only if a dirty bomb used radioactive iodine instead of other radioactive substances and then only for people close to the explosion. The potassium iodide tablets will be offered to all 750,000 postal workers nationwide.  Full story

American Thyroid Association


ATA Endorses Potassium Iodide for Radiation Emergencies

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) endorses the use of potassium iodide (KI) to protect people from absorbing radioactive iodine released during a nuclear emergency. High levels of radioactive iodine exposure can cause thyroid cancer, especially in babies and children up to 18 years of age. KI reduces the risk of thyroid cancer in exposed populations. Full story

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 Quick Summary of Radioactive Iodine.

Exposure to Radioactive Iodine (Radioiodine) is the primary danger in both nuclear power plant accidents and nuclear bomb explosions and can travel hundreds of miles on the winds. Thyroid cancer attributable to Chernobyl "...has been documented up to 500 km from the accident site."

Even very small amounts of inhaled or ingested radioiodine can do grave damage as it will always concentrate, and be retained, in the small space of the thyroid gland. Eventually giving such a large radiation dose to thyroid cells there that abnormalities are likely to result, such as loss of thyroid function, nodules in the thyroid, or thyroid cancer. 

Chernobyl has shown, and continues to reveal, that the greatest danger from radioiodine is to the tiny thyroid glands of children. Researchers have found that in certain parts of Belarus, for example, 36.4 per cent of children, who were under the age of four at the time of the accident, can expect to develop thyroid cancer.

The good news is that taking Potassium Iodide (KI) before exposure will saturate a persons thyroid gland with safe stable iodine to where there is no room for later uptake of radioactive iodine. Once the thyroid is saturated, then any additional iodine (radioactive or stable) that is later inhaled or ingested is quickly eliminated via the kidneys.

The bad news is that after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl all available KI supplies disappeared for months, almost overnight! The KI market is very thin and current limited inventory will be quickly depleted in any nuclear emergency occurring anywhere in the world. 

Most Potassium Iodide suppliers expect to be out of stock within 24-hours of any nuclear emergency simply because they will be totally sold-out with no illusions of getting re-supplied again any time soon!

Potassium Iodide (KI) has already been stockpiled by many developed countries for future nuclear emergencies, they figured it out after Chernobyl, but in the USA and several other countries they've only just begun.  Very limited quantities are available for individual purchase in the USA by the public. (Potassium Iodide (KI) has long been recognized and approved by the FDA for sale for this purpose without a prescription. Unfortunately, it is an over-the-counter (OTC) drug that's to be found on too few counters here in the USA!)

There are over 100 nuclear reactors in the United States. Are there any nuclear reactors in your area? Click on your state to see if you are safe from radioactive iodine as a result of a reactor accident.

What is Potassium Iodide (KI)?

Potassium Iodide (chemical name 'KI') is much more familiar to most than they might first expect. It is the ingredient added to your table salt to make it iodized salt. Potassium Iodide (KI) is approximately 76.5% iodine.

For purposes of radiation protection the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) stated; "In 1978, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found KI safe and effective for use in radiological emergencies and approved its over-the-counter sale."

Most recently (November, 2001) the FDA stated; "FDA maintains that KI is a safe and effective means by which to prevent radioiodine uptake by the thyroid gland, under certain specified conditions of use, and thereby obviate the risk of thyroid cancer in the event of a radiation emergency."


How Does KI Provide Anti-Radiation Protection?

Going back to June 23, 1966, the New England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 274 on Page 1442 states; "The thyroid gland is especially vulnerable to atomic injury since radioactive isotopes of iodine are a major component of fallout."

Cresson H. Kearny, the author of  Nuclear War Survival Skills, Original Edition Published September, 1979, by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Facility of the U.S. Department of Energy (Updated and Expanded 1987 Edition) stated: "A salt of the elements potassium and iodine, taken orally even in very small quantities 1/2 hour to 1 day before radioactive iodines are swallowed or inhaled, prevents about 99% of the damage to the thyroid gland that otherwise would result. The thyroid gland readily absorbs both non-radioactive and radioactive iodine, and normally it retains much of this element in either or both forms.

When ordinary, non-radioactive iodine is made available in the blood for absorption by the thyroid gland before any radioactive iodine is made available, the gland will absorb and retain so much that it becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine. When saturated, the thyroid can absorb only about l% as much additional iodine, including radioactive forms that later may become available in the blood: then it is said to be blocked. Excess iodine in the blood is rapidly eliminated by the action of the kidneys."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) stated July 1, 1998 in, Use of Potassium Iodine in Emergency Use; "Potassium iodide, if taken in time, blocks the thyroid gland's uptake of radioactive iodine and thus could help prevent thyroid cancers and other diseases that might otherwise be caused by exposure to airborne radioactive iodine that could be dispersed in a nuclear accident."

Federal Register. Vol. 43 Friday, December 15, 1978, states in Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in a Radiation Emergency; "Almost complete (greater than 90%) blocking of peak radioactive iodine uptake by the thyroid gland can be obtained by the oral administration of ... iodide ..."

National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. NCRP Report NO. 55. Protection of the Thyroid Gland in the Event of Releases of Radioiodine. August, 1979, Page 32; "A major protective action to be considered after a serious accident at a nuclear power facility involving the release of radioiodine is the use of stable iodide as a thyroid blocking agent to prevent thyroid uptake of radioiodines."

 The recently updated (1999) World Health Organization, Guidelines for Iodine Prophylaxis following Nuclear Accidents states; "Stable iodine administered before, or promptly after, intake of radioactive iodine can block or reduce the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid."

And, finally, the recently (November, 2001) released FDA document, Potassium Iodine as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies states; "The effectiveness of KI as a specific blocker of thyroid radioiodine uptake is well established as are the doses necessary for blocking uptake. As such, it is reasonable to conclude that KI will likewise be effective in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in individuals or populations at risk for inhalation or ingestion of radioiodines."

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Trans-Pacific Fallout

Read about potential risk of fallout arriving in the U.S. from nuke use in Pakistan, India, Mid-East, Korea, Taiwan, China, Russia, etc.  Click Here.


Radioactive Iodine: Bad News / Good News? 

The "Bad News" first:

1 - Radioactive iodine is a major radioisotope constituent in nuclear power plants.

2 - There are 103 currently active commercial nuclear reactors and 39 operating nonpower reactors in the United States. (434 worldwide as of 1998.) Additionally, there are numerous other nuclear processing and storage facilities worldwide with the potential for accidents, too. The, September 29, 1999, Tokaimura, Japan nuclear accident took place, not in a nuclear reactor power plant, but in an uranium processing plant. Radioactive iodine gases were confirmed to have been released and was the primary reason for 320,000 Japanese confined to their homes with their windows shut. It was also why you may have seen photos of Japanese authorities examining scores of children with geiger counters pressed against their necks.

3 - Radioactive iodine is also a major constituent of detonated nuclear weapons.

4 - Radioactive iodine can not only travel hundreds of miles on the winds, but also still remain health threatening even as other radioisotopes are becoming dispersed and diluted along with it and their likelihood of causing harm diminishes. It is often overlooked that while there will also be many other dangerous radioisotopes released along with radioiodine, if they are inhaled or ingested they are normally dispersed throughout a body and pose less of a risk than if they were to be concentrated into one small specific area of the body, like radioiodine is in the thyroid gland. As a plume or cloud of radioactive isotopes disperses with the wind its danger also diminishes, but always much less quickly so for radioiodine because whatever little there is that's inhaled will always be concentrated into that small space of the thyroid gland.

NUREG-1633 points out an increase in thyroid cancer caused by radioiodine from Chernobyl... "...was detected in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. Notably, this increase, seen in areas more than 150 miles (300 km) from the site, continues to this day and primarily affects children who were 0-14 years old at the time of the accident...the vast majority of the thyroid cancers were diagnosed among those living more than 50 km (31 miles) from the site." The recently updated (1999) World Health Organization states in its abstract regarding thyroid cancer caused by the Chernobyl disaster:  "This increase in incidence has been documented up to 500 km from the accident site."  ...and therefore that stockpiling KI  is warranted, when feasible, over much wider areas than normally encompassed by emergency planning zones, and that the opportunity for voluntary purchase be part of national plans."

Many are coming to see now that relying on the current U.S. policy of public safety contingency plans focused on only protecting the populations inside a small "Emergency Planning Zone" (EPZ) of 5 to 10 miles around U.S. nuclear power plants is "overly optimistic", to put it very mildly.

Undoubtedly, US nuclear power plants are much better designed, operated, and safer than many others elsewhere in the world, and certainly many magnitudes safer than the Chernobyl operation ever was. But, that doesn't mean much anymore when we aren't just concerned with just accidents, but now sabotage or terrorist attacks, too.

Without anyone debating here how likely anything is to ever go wrong, it must still be accepted by all that the logic of even having any EPZ's established is to effectively provide for the public safety in that rarest of events if/when anything did go wrong. If that's why we've even bothered with having any EPZ's at all, then shouldn't they be effective ones, if/when it's ever really needed to protect the public downwind? Reality is, the wind just won't know to stop blowing when it comes up against the currently tiny 5-10-50 mile EPZ 'barriers'.

The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reported that the wind, of course, doesn't respect state boundaries either as our own Nevada atomic bomb testing program in the 1950s and early 1960s made it possible that "...everyone living in the contiguous 48 states was exposed to low levels of 131Iodine (radioiodine) for several months following each nuclear bomb test."  even more importantly; "The report also estimates that children aged three to five years probably received doses of radiation three to seven times higher than average during the 90 nuclear tests that were carried out."

Remember, it's always the children who are at the highest risk of injury from radioactive iodine and eventually developing thyroid cancer from that exposure. Each year, more than 12,000 Americans find out they have thyroid cancer, though from various causes. And, of course, the wind also doesn't respect international boundaries either, nor even continents and oceans, as fallout from a single above ground Chinese nuclear test explosion ("a few hundred kilotons") on December 28, 1966 resulted in the fallout cloud covering most of the United States.

From Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills:

"The Chinese nuclear test explosion produced fallout that by January 1, 1967 resulted in the fallout cloud covering most of the United States. This one Chinese explosion produced about 15 million curies of iodine- 131 - roughly the same amount as the total release of iodine- 131 into the atmosphere from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster."

"Fallout from the approximately 300 kiloton Chinese test explosion caused milk from cows that fed on pastures near Oak Ridge, Tennessee and elsewhere to be contaminated with radioiodine, although not with enough to be hazardous to health. However, this milk contamination (up to 900 picocuries of radioactive iodine per liter) and the measured dose rates from the gamma rays emitted from fallout particles deposited in different parts of the United States indicate that trans-Pacific fallout from even an overseas nuclear war in which "only" two or three hundred megatons would be exploded could result in tens of thousands of unprepared Americans suffering thyroid injury."  

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Getting Back To The Future...

Commenting on the world health effects a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would create, for example, Dr. Henry Kendall of the Union of Concerned Scientists said in October of 1999: "It would be very similar to Chernobyl. But it could be on a substantially larger scale."

Accordingly, you also have to assess the probable threat from nuclear war, either directed at the U.S. or fallout contamination originating from elsewhere in the world. Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Middle East, etc., where any of them are exchanging nuclear blasts with any of their neighbors, could have the prevailing west-to-east trade winds carrying the resultant radioactive fallout to our shores, too.

You'll have to decide whether that's an impossible scenario in your families lifetime, or not. And, then prepare accordingly.

5 - Radioactive iodine persists in the environment for a month or more.

6 - Most importantly, ingested or inhaled radioactive iodine  persists in the body and concentrates in the thyroid. (Excess iodine in the blood, either radioiodine or stable iodine, is quickly eliminated from the body, but only after the thyroid has become saturated with one or the other type of iodine.) Even very small amounts of radioactive iodine, because it is retained in the small space of the thyroid, eventually will give such a large radiation dose to thyroid cells there that abnormalities are likely to result. These would include loss of thyroid function, nodules in the thyroid, or thyroid cancer. The most likely to see the worst effects, in later life, are the youngest children. 

"Many of the Chernobyl thyroid cancers appearing in the former Soviet Union among young people today were just children less than five years old at the time of the accident. Experts now contend that as high as 40% of the nodules are cancerous with 5 to 10 percent of the cancers fatal."

Every year researchers are discovering more from Chernobyl as its legacy continues to reveal itself. According to the World Health Organization, "The Chernobyl disaster will cause 50,000 new cases of thyroid cancer among young people living in the areas most affected by the nuclear disaster." Researchers have also found that in certain parts of Belarus, for example, 36.4 per cent of children, who were under the age of four at the time of the accident, can expect to develop thyroid cancer.

For all of the above reasons, health experts estimate that the greatest health concerns affecting the largest number of people from a nuclear accident, or nuclear bomb explosion anywhere in the world, will likely be from the release of radioactive iodine then carried downwind.


However, there really is some Good News amongst all this!

This deadly cancer agent, especially to our children, 

is easily, inexpensively, and effectively blocked!

As mentioned; "...a salt of the elements potassium and iodine, taken orally even in very small quantities 1/2 hour to 1 day before radioactive iodines are swallowed or inhaled, prevents about 99% of the damage to the thyroid gland that otherwise would result."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) states in OMSECY-98-016 Federal Notice on Potassium Iodine; "The Chernobyl accident demonstrated that thyroid cancer can indeed be a major result of a large reactor accident. Moreover, although the Food and Drug Administration declared KI "safe and effective" as long ago as 1978, the drug had never been deployed on a large scale until Chernobyl. The experience of Polish health authorities during the accident has provided confirmation that large scale deployment of KI is safe."

Additionally, it goes on to say, "The revised policy also reflects wide scale change in international practice following the Chernobyl disaster, specifically 1989 World Health Organization recommendations (updated in 1995) and 1996 and 1997 International Atomic Energy Agency standards and guidance, which have led to use of KI as a supplementary protective measure in much of Europe, as well as in Canada and Japan."

Also, the newly released (November, 2001) FDA document entitled; Potassium Iodine as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies states; "Thus, the studies following the Chernobyl accident support the etiologic role of relatively small doses of radioiodine in the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer among exposed children. Furthermore, it appears that the increased risk occurs with a relatively short latency. Finally, the Polish experience supports the use of KI as a safe and effective means by which to protect against thyroid cancer caused by internal thyroid irradiation from inhalation of contaminated air or ingestion of contaminated food and drink when exposure cannot be prevented by evacuation, sheltering, or food and milk control."

What they learned was that children, with their thyroid glands being the most sensitive to radioactive iodine uptake, have today grown up to be the most frequent victims of thyroid cancers there. The children in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus, where potassium iodide (KI) was not widely distributed, are now experiencing high levels of thyroid cancer. However, in Poland, where over 18 million doses of Potassium Iodide (KI) were administered, and to 97 percent of the children, there has been no similar increase in thyroid cancer. Also, key to Poland's radioiodine protective strategy, was their aggressive interdiction of radioiodine contaminated food stuffs and milk.

Bottom Line: For all its serious potential for widespread damage to populations (and especially among our youngest), far downwind from the site of a nuclear event, radioiodine health concerns can be largely neutralized by inexpensive thyroid blocking via prompt prophylactic use of potassium iodide (KI). This, in addition to successful evacuation, when indicated, and vigilance that food and milk are not also radioiodine contaminated, has proven itself the best combination strategy.

 

Questions and Answers about Potassium Iodide (KI)
American Thyroid Association   ATA

Why does the thyroid gland need special protection after a release of radioactive material?

The thyroid gland needs iodine to produce the hormones that regulate the body's energy and metabolism. The thyroid absorbs available iodine from the bloodstream. The gland cannot distinguish between stable (regular) iodine and radioactive iodine, and will absorb whatever it can. In babies and children, the thyroid gland is one of the most radiation-sensitive parts of the body. Most nuclear explosions release radioactive iodine. When thyroid cells absorb too much radioactive iodine, it can cause thyroid cancer. Babies and young children are at highest risk. The risk is much lower for people over age 40. Thyroid cancer seems to be the only cancer whose incidence rises after a radioactive iodine release. KI protects only the thyroid, but it is the organ that most needs protecting.

What is KI?
Potassium iodide (KI) is the same form of iodine used to iodize table salt. KI floods the thyroid with iodine, thus preventing radioactive iodine from being absorbed. If taken at the proper time, KI protects the thyroid from radioactive iodine from all sources - air, food, milk, and water. KI is a non-prescription drug that can be bought over the internet and at some pharmacies. KI is made in pill and liquid forms. The two FDA-approved brands of full adult dose 130-mg KI pills are IOSAT® (Anbex, Inc.) and Thyro-Block® (Medpointe, Inc.). The FDA-approved brand of 65-mg KI pills is ThyroSafe® (Recip US). Properly packaged, KI's shelf life is at least 5 years and possibly as long as 11 years. If you accidentally take a very old pill, it may not work fully but it won't hurt you.

What is the proof that KI works?
After the 1986 Chornobyl (formerly called "Chernobyl") nuclear accident, shifting winds blew a radioactive cloud all over Europe. As many as 3,000 people exposed to that radiation have already developed thyroid cancer. Most victims had been babies or young children living in Ukraine, Belarus, or Russia at the time of the accident. According to a UN report released in February 2002, another 8,000 to 10,000 exposed people may develop thyroid cancer within the next 10 years. Poland, immediately adjacent to Belarus and Ukraine, distributed KI to its people and does not appear to have had an increase in thyroid cancer.

When should KI be taken?
Taken 6-12 hours before exposure to radioactive iodine, KI fills the thyroid cells and prevents the gland from absorbing radioactive iodine. KI is also protective if taken within the first few hours after exposure to radioactive iodine. People should take one dose a day, only while they are being exposed to radioactive iodine and one day afterward. KI should be used only under instruction from local health authorities. Not every radioactive release includes the radioactive iodine that can cause thyroid cancer. For example, a "dirty bomb" is not likely to contain radioactive iodine because it has a short half-life. (A "dirty bomb" is a conventional bomb mixed with radioactive material, and designed to explode spewing out the radioactive isotopes and contaminating a wide area.) Only health authorities can determine which radioactive isotopes are released during a nuclear event, and, if radioactive iodine is released, when to take KI and how long to keep taking it.

Why worry so much about thyroid cancer if most people survive it?
In general, 90% of patients survive thyroid cancer. The post-Chornobyl cancers have been aggressive and have been unusual in affecting children younger than 10 years of age. Thyroid cancer survivors always remain at risk for recurrence and require lifelong medical care. Likewise, the people who were exposed to radioactive iodine from the Chornobyl accident but have not developed thyroid cancer remain at risk for life and must continue to be tested. The demands of regular testing and care for this large population are putting a heavy burden on both patients and health care systems.

How should KI be incorporated into an overall emergency plan?
KI is an adjunct to evacuation, sheltering (staying in an unventilated room with the doors and windows closed), and avoiding contaminated food, milk, and water. KI should not take the place of any other protective measure.

Won't having KI pills lull people into a false sense of security?
Not likely. Local authorities recommend that people leave the vicinity of a nuclear emergency as quickly as possible. People are being taught that KI is just a supplement to evacuation.

Why waste time taking a pill if you're being told to evacuate?
Because nuclear releases are unpredictable but traffic jams are likely to delay speedy evacuation, people should take their KI before they evacuate, following instructions from local health officials.

Why offer KI to people just within 10 or 20 miles of a plant? Can't radiation be harmful farther away?
KI distribution should not be limited to 10 or 20 miles. No one can predict how far a radioactive iodine cloud might spread. After Chornobyl, higher than expected rates of thyroid cancer were found more than 200 miles away from the nuclear plant. Thus, no one can predict how far from a nuclear plant the U.S. should distribute KI if it is to protect every person who might be exposed to radioactive iodine. Because there is no right answer, the American Thyroid Association recommends three levels of coverage, determined by distance from the nuclear plant:

Ring Distance from
nuclear plant
Action
1 0-50 miles Distribute KI in advance ("predistribute") to individual households, with extra stockpiles stored at emergency reception centers
2 50-200 miles Stockpile KI in local public facilities such as schools, hospitals, clinics, post offices, and police and fire stations, for distribution upon notification by local health officials
3 >200 miles Make KI available from the Department of Health and Human Services' National Pharmaceutical Stockpile

What do U.S. government agencies recommend?
KI is endorsed for radiation protection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Department of Health and Human Services has included KI in the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile for use in health emergencies. In December 2001, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote to the 34 states that either have a functioning nuclear power plant or are within 10 miles of another state's plant; the letter offered free KI pills for each resident within the 10-mile "emergency zone" surrounding active plants, and an extra supply to be provided for transients. 

The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, enacted by Congress in May 2002, creates a mechanism to extend the radius of KI distribution to communities within 20 miles of nuclear plants, and directs the President to decide which agency or agencies will oversee KI stockpiling and distribution. Distribution under the new law could begin as early as June 2003.

Won't distribution and public education be expensive and time-consuming?
Possibly, although the potential benefit of KI far outweighs the cost. The Bioterrorism Act directs the National Academy of Sciences to study "the most effective and safe way to distribute and administer potassium iodide tablets on a mass scale." The National Academy of Sciences panel should address many of the decisions still to be made, for example: Who should be responsible for distribution? Within 50 miles of a nuclear plant, how should pills best be predistributed to families to store at home, before the time of need? Within 50 miles of a plant, should pills also be kept at local schools, clinics, post offices, and police and fire stations for distribution during an emergency? How should children be treated at school? How should stockpiles be maintained? Provision must also be made to educate the public about why KI is important, what it can and cannot do, and how and when to use it. 

What are other countries doing?
The World Health Organization endorses KI. France, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland not only stockpile KI but predistribute it to their populations.

What does the American Thyroid Association recommend?
The American Thyroid Association (ATA) has been urging KI stockpiling since 1984. ATA members have been studying the Chornobyl nuclear accident and caring for its victims. The Association's recommendations are outlined in their public health statement. This plan is endorsed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society, and the Thyroid Foundation of America.

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