Thursday, February 20, 2003

Radiation pills popular near Davis-Besse plant

The Associated Press

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - More people than expected have picked up packets of pills that can give limited protection from radiation in a nuclear accident.

About one-third of Ottawa County's 20,000 residents who live near the Davis-Besse nuclear plant have gotten the two free potassium iodide pills, said Jim Greer, head of the county's emergency management agency.

Officials expected that only 10 percent of the people would want the pills.

"It's way over what any of us anticipated," Greer said.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is offering the pills to the 33 states with nuclear reactors. The federal agency is paying for Ohio's 640,000.

The pills will go to anyone within 10 miles of two nuclear power plants along Lake Erie and those in Columbiana County who are close to the Beaver Valley plant in western Pennsylvania.

Coupons for the pills were mailed to Ottawa County residents in January. They could redeem the coupons for the pills at pharmacies and the health department.

While more packets than expected were handed out, the county still has more than 120,000 pills. Some will be stored in other counties and some will be saved for summer residents who have cottages along Lake Erie.

The pills don't protect against all radiation. They guard the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine, which causes cancer and can be released in huge plumes in atomic explosions. They protect against thyroid cancer and other diseases.

The pill works by filling the thyroid gland, which absorbs iodine, with harmless iodine before radioactive iodine can get in. It is to be taken shortly after a nuclear accident and is effective for 24 hours.

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