MDCH Makes Potassium Iodide Pills Available to Residents Near Nuclear Power Plants

Contact: James McCurtis (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

September 2, 2010

Lansing - The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is making potassium iodide pills available to people living, working or visiting areas within 10 miles of the state's nuclear power plants.

In the unlikely event of a nuclear power plant incident, a radioactive iodine release could occur. Radioactive iodine can be stored in the thyroid gland, causing thyroid cancer or other thyroid related illnesses. A non-prescription drug called potassium iodide (also called "KI") can prevent these illnesses by reducing the thyroid gland's ability to absorb radioactive iodine.

"Hopefully there will never be an accident where these pills would be needed," said MDCH Director Janet Olszewski. "Making KI available now, we are giving the public an opportunity to add an extra measure of protection to their emergency supplies."

KI is effective only if taken within a few hours of exposure to radioactive iodine. If a General Emergency is declared at a nuclear power plant, taking KI is recommended as an additional health protective measure, supplementing other emergency measures such as evacuation and protection of the food supply.

A one-day supply of potassium iodide is currently available at no cost to all interested residents, employers, workers and visitors at Shoreline Pharmacy in South Haven; Meijer pharmacies in Monroe, Woodhaven, Benton Harbor and Michigan City, Indiana; and Kroger pharmacies in Monroe, Brownstown and Brownstown Township. The public is advised to store their potassium iodide pills in a safe place, along with other emergency supplies, so that they would be available if needed. Individuals who obtained KI last year do not need to get any more because pills are effective for five years.

Residents, businesses and institutions within the 10 mile emergency planning zones surrounding the plants will receive a mailing beginning next week with information on how and where to receive their free supply of KI. More information on this program is posted at www.michigan.gov/KI.

"KI pills are not a cure-all." said Dr. Greg Holzman, MDCH Chief Medical Executive. "While they offer protection of the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine, they offer no protection to the body from other injuries during radiation exposure. Evacuation and sheltering are the primary modes of protection in a radiological emergency."

The risk of an accident at a nuclear power plant has not increased. In fact, the plants have undertaken increased security measures and are safer than ever. This KI distribution program simply adds a supplemental measure of protection for those who choose it.