Public Comment Sought On Potassium Iodide Plan

For Immediate Release
February 4, 2002
Contact: Jan K. Carney, MD
Vermont Health Commissioner
802-863-7280

BURLINGTON, VT—As part of Vermont’s terrorism preparedness effort, public health officials plan to make potassium iodide tablets available to anyone who lives and works in the vicinity of Vermont Yankee, the Vernon nuclear power plant.

The Vermont Department of Health has posted a draft plan on its website (www.state.vt.us/health) and is soliciting public comment for the next six weeks. [EDITOR’S NOTE: The comment period has concluded.]

“There is no substitute for following emergency instructions, such as evacuation orders, in case of a nuclear emergency,” Health Commissioner Dr. Jan K. Carney said, “but potassium iodide provides one of the few protections we can distribute in advance.”

One of the contaminants that could be released in a nuclear accident or similar event is radioactive iodine, which can increase the risk of thyroid cancer. Potassium iodide is a drug that, taken in an appropriate and timely doseage, can block exposure to radioactive iodine.

“It should not be taken needlessly,” Dr. Carney said, “but if it is taken immediately at the time of exposure, it could help prevent thyroid cancer, especially in children.”

Following the September 11 attacks, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it would supply states with a supply of potassium iodide sufficient to provide two daily doses for every person who lives or works within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant.

“We intend to make one dose available to every person who lives or works in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Halifax, Marlboro and Vernon,” Dr. Carney said. “The remaining dosages will be held for them at the designated reception areas we have set up to be used in case of evacuation.

“In an emergency, no one should delay evacuating or following other emergency instructions to search for a pill,” she said.

“We’re going to tell people, ‘Another pill will be waiting for you at the reception area.’”

Dr. Carney requested that comments on the plan be sent to her or to the Health Department’s Brattleboro office, at the addresses below. “You may also comment on-line from our website,” she said.

Web address: www.state.vt.us/health

Dr. Carney’s address:

Vermont Department of Health
P.O. Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402

Brattleboro address:

Vermont Department of Health
Attn.: Fran DeFlorio, District Director
232 Main Street, Suite #3
Brattleboro, VT 05301-4806
tel. 802-257-2880