Massachusetts Town votes to stockpile anti-nuclear pill : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Town votes to stockpile anti-nuclear pill

Associated Press, 03/14/00

DUXBURY - State and federal officials have for years debated if a tiny pill can protect people from a nuclear meltdown, but people in this South Shore town are tired of waiting.

Town Meeting voters have approved the purchase of thousands of potassium iodide tablets to protect them from the looming presence across Duxbury Bay: the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth.

The town approved $5,000 Monday night - enough to buy one pill for each of the town's 3,700 students and provide another 20,220 for the town's emergency shelters.

"What have we bought?'' said Mary E. Lampert, a town resident and mother of three. "We've bought - God forbid there were an accident - protection for our children and families.''

Potassium iodide, if taken shortly after exposure to radiation, blocks the thyroid gland's intake of radioactive iodine, providing protection against thyroid cancer and other diseases.

Potassium iodide proved effective in preventing thyroid cancer among adults and children in the path of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The pills were first handed out near a nuclear plant in Tennessee in 1981. Since then Alabama, Arizona and Maine have distributed the pills to people living near plants.

Two years ago, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended that states consider using the drug, along with evacuation and sheltering, as part of their emergency planning.

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also reviewed its 1982 policy on how large of a dosage is safe.

In Massachusetts, the state currently stockpiles the pills for emergency workers and institutionalized individuals, such as prisoners.

But state health officials in the past have worried that stockpiling the pills would, in the event of a nuclear emergency, make residents less likely to evacuate an area near a power plant.

The state Department of Public Health is reconsidering its position on potassium iodide this month.

But Lampert, who is chairman of the town's Nuclear Advisory Committee, said the decision is clear: the state should provide the pills to residents who live near the plant and to schools.

Potassium iodide is easily available over the Internet, and Lampert says her family keeps a supply in the glove compartment of the car and in the medicine cabinet.

But individual precautions such as those, she says, wouldn't help the town's schoolchildren if a radioactive plume were to escape from the Plymouth plant, just six or seven miles away from the town's schools.

David Tarantino, a spokesman for Pilgrim Station, the state's only nuclear plant, said the plant had an excellent safety record since it opened in 1972.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 15, 2000

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