The Potassium Iodide (KI) Issue
"What is Potassium Iodide?"
Potassium iodide is a salt, similar to table salt. Its chemical symbol is KI. It is routinely added to table salt to make it "iodized." Potassium iodide, if taken in time and at the appropriate dosage, blocks the thyroid gland's uptake of radioactive iodine and thus could prevent thyroid cancers caused by exposure to radioactive iodine.
Use of Potassium Iodide (KI) in the State of Michigan
The Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) is the lead state agency for managing the state KI supply for nuclear power plant emergencies pursuant to the Michigan Emergency Management Plan. The State maintains a stockpile of about 3200 bottles (fourteen 130 mg tablets in each) that is distributed among the EMHSD office, the Department of Environmental Quality/Radiological Protection and Medical Waste Section (DEQ/RPMWS) office, and five counties in the vicinity of the operating nuclear power plants (Wayne, Monroe, Berrien, Van Buren, and Allegan). The EMHSD routinely replenishes supplies to maintain a valid expiration date.
Should an accidental release of radioactive iodine ever occur from a nuclear power plant, this KI would be used by responding DEQ field teams and other state and county emergency workers. In addition, KI would be provided to homebound individuals for whom evacuation is not a practical option should the radioiodine release be a significant public health risk. A detailed KI information sheet accompanies each bottle of KI, (including directions, warnings, and explanations) and the State of Michigan provides thorough guidance to all impacted persons as the situation warrants. For the public at large, the primary protective action of choice is evacuation without the use of KI. Prompt evacuation precludes the need for KI.
Potassium Iodide Issue: Status - 2007
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), since 2001, has required that all states consider the use of KI for the general public as part of their radiological emergency response planning efforts. The NRC also has offered to provide an initial supply of KI to any state that requests it.
The 33 states that have areas within the ten-mile Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) have adopted a wide range of responses to this planning requirement. Some states have distributed KI - through a variety of means - to all residents within the EPZ. Other states continue to stockpile KI only for use by emergency workers and those individuals that cannot be evacuated.
In Michigan, the Department of Community Health, the State Police, and the Department of Environmental Quality have been evaluating the actions taken by other states, and have worked with county health department and emergency management officials to consider an expanded KI policy. Whether or not an expanded KI policy is adopted, the immediate evacuation of the public and prompt evaluation of food and water resources must remain the primary protective action choice for Michigan.