KI pills to be distributed near nuclear plants

Radiation pills now available 

Middletown mayor questions why KI tablets are being distributed in Harrisburg instead of the borough


by Garry Lenton Press And Journal Staff : 9/2/2009


The state Department of Health is distributing potassium iodide, or KI, pills today and tomorrow to residents who live or work near a nuclear power station such as Three Mile Island.


 The pills protect the thyroid from radioactive iodine, which can be released during a nuclear accident.



The pills will be available from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the following locations:


• Harrisburg Mall, upper level center court, 3601 Paxton St.

• Masonic Village, Freemasons Cultural Center, 1 Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown.


The announcement, made by the Health Department on Aug. 27, left Middletown Mayor Robert Reid and his emergency management staff scratching their heads.

Because of an oversight, the borough was never notified of the distribution. Reid also criticized the state’s decision to distribute the pills at the Harrisburg Mall.


“How many of our people are going to drive up there to get their KI pills?” Reid asked yesterday. “Not very many.”


Middletown planned to use its Code Red system to notify residents about the pills and where to get them.  Code Red is an automated telephone message system connected to about 4,000 households.


In the past, KI pills were distributed at Fink Elementary School on Race Street, Reid said.

Stacy Kreideman, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, said the borough will receive a supply of pills to distribute locally after the three-day distribution ends tomorrow.


The department could not use the school as a distribution site because classes were in session, she said.

Reid said the borough will use volunteers to hand out the pills from the MCSO Building.


“We’ll take a week to do it if we have to,” he said.


The KI tablets are available from other sources at all times of year, however.

Residents can obtain KI pills during normal business hours at public health centers and regional offices, officials said.


The pills are also available anytime from the EFMR Monitoring Group, a non-profit organization that monitors radiation around TMI. To order pills, send an e-mail to


“We believe anybody who wants to have access to KI tablets should have that ability,” said Eric Epstein, founder of EFMR.


EFMR will order 10,000 pills this fall to replenish its supply, he said.


The distribution of pills is recommended by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which also provides the doses to the states. The NRC oversees the commercial nuclear industry.


Each person who lives within the 10-mile radius of a nuclear plant is eligible to receive four, 65-milligram tablets per person, according to the Health Department. 


Households that obtained pills during the 2002 distribution need to replace their supply, Kreideman said.


The new pills have a shelf life of five years, she said.


The pills should not be taken unless residents are told to do so by the governor, or public health officials, according to a statement from the department.


If inhaled, radiation iodide can accumulate in the thyroid gland, where it can cause cancer. Children under 18 are more vulnerable, officials said.


The pills work by saturating the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine. The thyroid gland is the only part of the body that is protected by KI.

Garry Lenton: 944-4628,


Also in the news: 



KI pills available for free this week

Potassium iodide protects the thyroid from radiation exposure. It is being offered to people living within 10 miles of the state's five nuclear plants.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Sandi Kraybill of New Cumberland was around during the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident, but she wasn't worried enough to leave the area.


She's still not concerned, even though she knows the plant is likely to have its operating license extended for another 20 years.


But Kraybill still went to the Fairview Twp. Fire Department to pick up doses of potassium iodide being distributed for free by the state Department of Health. Those living within 10 miles of the state's five nuclear plants can pick up the tablets at various locations through Thursday.


The potassium iodide pills can partially protect the thyroid gland from radiation exposure if there is a nuclear accident.


"This just gives me a little extra sense of security ... but I am absolutely not scared," Kraybill said. "We have fire extinguishers in our home, but that doesn't mean we live every day in fear of fire."


The state last distributed the pills in 2002, but those expired Monday, said Alice Gray, director of community health systems for the Department of Health. The state has enough tablets for the 1.2 million people living near the plants, she said.


Potassium iodide, or KI pills, protect the thyroid gland against radioactive iodine that might be released in an accident. They have few side effects, Gray said, but should be avoided by anyone allergic to iodine. People with thyroid problems should consult their doctors before taking the pills, she said.


The pills do not protect against other forms of cancer or illnesses caused by radiation, which is why in case of an accident it is still important to evacuate.


There was a steady stream of people picking up the pills at the fire hall on Tuesday, but like Kraybill, many said they were not particularly worried about living near Three Mile Island.


Deborah Davis of Fairview Twp., who also did not leave during the 1979 accident, said she thought, "Why not?" when she heard of the pills.


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