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Residents Near Harris Nuclear Power Plant to Receive KI Tablets

Release Date: April 26, 2010
Contact: Bill Furney, 919-715-4174

RALEIGH – Local public health officials will begin distribution of potassium iodide tablets to residents located within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) of the Harris Nuclear Power Plant next month. The distribution will take place on, Saturday, May 15 in Chatham, Harnett, Lee, and Wake counties. 

Potassium iodide (often called by its chemical symbol KI) is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can protect one gland in the body – the thyroid – if a person is exposed to radioactive iodine released during a nuclear power plant emergency. If taken within the appropriate time and at the appropriate dose, KI blocks the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine. Taking KI in such an event reduces the risk of thyroid cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that KI is safe for most people. The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that children are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of radioactive iodine than adults and are more likely to develop thyroid cancer following exposure. Parents who are not sure whether their children can take KI should consult their health care providers.

Local health departments began distributing potassium iodide to residents and schools within the 10-mile EPZ in 2002-03. KI is provided to the state free of charge by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

While considered safe for most people, KI can cause minor side effects such as gastrointestinal disturbances and rashes. Individuals who are allergic to iodine should not take KI. People with a couple of rare disorders – dermatitis herpetiformis and hypocomplementemic vasculitis – should not take KI.

The best advice for protecting the public health in a nuclear power plant emergency is to evacuate the area in a safe and orderly way. KI is an additional safety measure; it is not a substitute for evacuation.

Note to Reporters: For information specific to each county’s distribution sites and efforts please contact the following county public information officers: