[ RadSafe ] Article: Nuke pills not ready despite '03 deadline

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 12 10:47:48 CDT 2005

>From USA Today, 10/11/2005 
Page 1A

Nuke pills not ready despite '03 deadline
Access within 20 miles of plants still lacking
By Mimi Hall

WASHINGTON — 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 radiation.

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

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said it's “outrageous”
that the administration hasn't made the pills more
widely available.

“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 children.”

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

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
antidotes 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 it.”

States have the option of stockpiling their own
potassium iodide pills.

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.
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On Oct. 5, 1947, in the first televised White House address, President Truman asked Americans to refrain from eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays to help stockpile grain for starving people in Europe. 

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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