Local health officials say they are preparing to distribute new potassium iodide pills to people within 10 miles of the Perry plant [in the US], which besides Lake [County], includes parts of Geauga and Ashtabula counties. Meanwhile, there is a renewed push in Washington to expand the pill-distribution area from 10 miles to 20 miles.
Lake County Health Commissioner Joel Lucia said H1N1 flu has put the department behind on packaging and distributing about 80,000 doses of potassium iodide, but that the new pills will go out to pharmacies next week.
The Ohio Department of Health sent 1.4 million doses to local health departments in May.
The Ashtabula County Health Department will pass out baggies with anti-radiation pills and instructions at a Dec. 19 swine flu vaccination clinic in Geneva, said Joyce Bronson, a disease surveillance specialist. The pills will also be available at pharmacies.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts announced that he asked President Barack Obama to review a 2002 law that calls for distributing the drugs to a 20-mile area around the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants. The law followed concerns of a terror attack on a nuclear facility.
The Bush administration invoked a loophole in the law that allowed it to come up with an alternative to expanding the distribution zone. The Bush administration said evacuations and removal of contaminated food are more effective ways to prevent cancer.
Dr. Elizabeth Pearce of the American Thyroid Association and other critics point to Hurricane Katrina as an example of how evacuations can go awry.
“If it can’t happen in rapid fashion, then (pills) provide an added layer of security,” said Pearce of Boston University. Her group advocates distribution of potassium iodide within 50 miles of a nuclear energy plant, citing the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in which winds carried a radioactive cloud long distances.
Perry nuclear power plants (excerpt)