[ RadSafe ] Nuke pills not ready despite '03 deadline
sandyfl at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 12 08:15:17 CDT 2005
Nuke pills not ready despite '03 deadline
Despite an order from Congress, the Bush administration has not given
millions of people living within 20 miles of nuclear power plants
access to pills that could help protect them if they are exposed to
It will be early 2006, at the earliest, before potassium iodide pills
are made available to those people. Congress had ordered that the
pills, which help prevent thyroid cancer, be stockpiled by mid-2003.
Rep. Edward Markey (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., said it's
"outrageous" that the administration hasn't made the pills more
"Nuclear power plants are at the top of the al-Qaeda target list," he
said. "Potassium iodide is an inexpensive way to protect infants and
The federal government already makes pills available to states that
have residents living within 10 miles of a licensed nuclear reactor.
The nation has 104 such reactors spread across 33 states.
After the Sept. 11 attacks raised concerns that terrorists might try
to attack nuclear power plants, members of Congress decided more
people should be protected.
HOW PILLS WORK
A nuclear accident produces radioactive iodine. Potassium iodide
pills, if taken quickly, fill the thyroid with non-radioactive
iodine, thereby blocking the radioactive element from the thyroid.
As part of broad bioterrorism legislation passed in 2002, Congress
set a June 2003 deadline for the administration to offer free
potassium iodide pills to states that have residents living within a
20-mile radius of a plant.
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 4.7 million people
live within a 10-mile radius of the nation's plants, and 21.9 million
live within a 20-mile radius. Because the pills are recommended only
for people 40 and younger, who are more likely than older people to
get thyroid cancer, not everyone would need them.
The once-a-day pills are approved by the Food and Drug
Administration and must be started within four hours of exposure.
Thyroid cancer would be a leading health concern, particularly among
children, in the event of a radioactive iodine leak caused by an
accident or a terrorist attack.
Robert Claypool, director of the emergency preparedness planning
office at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),
acknowledges the government is way behind schedule.
He blames bureaucratic indecision during the past two years about
which government agency - HHS or the Homeland Security Department
- should be in charge of the federal government's stockpile of drugs
and anti-dotes for anthrax, smallpox and other diseases.
The dispute was resolved this year in favor of HHS.
"All of us understand that more time has elapsed than Congress
intended," Claypool said. "We're doing our best to try to comply with
States have the option of stockpiling their own potassium iodide
Under the bioterrorism law, HHS must offer guidelines to states on
how to store, distribute and use them. HHS published guidelines for
public comment in August.
Claypool said the administration is pushing to get the program in
place. But he added that officials are concerned that the pills,
which protect the thyroid against inhaled or ingested radioactive
iodine by saturating it with harmless potassium iodide, "will be
overrelied on as a panacea" in lieu of evacuation and
Alan Morris, president of Anbex, a company that sells the pills over
the Internet, says the government could buy them for only 18 cents
per pill. Most people would probably need to take the pills only a
few days before the radiation dissipated.
Senior Vice President, Technical Operations
Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc.
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614
Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714 Extension 2306
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