Debate Delays Distribution of Pills To State Residents To Protect Against Radiation Exposure
State officials last summer received about 400,000 potassium iodide pills to help protect individuals who reside near nuclear power plants from radiation exposure, but debate over "how best to get the drugs to the public" will delay distribution of the tablets until at least January, the Los Angeles Times reports (Mehta, Los Angeles Times, 11/12). In June, state officials announced a plan to distribute the pills -- which help protect against the development of thyroid cancer when taken within four hours of radiation exposure -- to 421,000 residents of Orange and San Diego counties who reside within 10 miles of two nuclear power plants to help protect against radiation exposure in the event of a terrorist attack on the facilities. The state made the decision to distribute the pills six months after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission offered the tablets to the 34 states with nuclear power plants (California Healthline, 6/18).
A debate over whether the state should store the pills in hospitals and trauma centers "farther away" from the plants, rather than distribute them to residents, has delayed the plan. Supporters of the plan to distribute the pills to residents said that in the event of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant, individuals could "take a dose right away," which would provide them with the most protection against thyroid cancer. However, opponents said that the plan could delay evacuations and provide residents with a "false sense of security" because the pills only protect against one radioactive isotope. Community leaders and antinuclear activists have expressed "frustration" with the delay in distribution of the pills, the Times reports. Eric Lamoureux, a spokesperson for the Office of Emergency Services, said that the state could move the pills "quickly" from a storage facility in Southern California in the event of an emergency. Lamoureux added that he expects the state to make a final decision on the distribution of the pills "well before next summer," when a federal deadline to distribute the tablets takes effect (Los Angeles Times, 11/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.