Massachusetts congressman, Rep. Ed Markey, asked the federal government Tuesday to distribute potassium iodide pills to Americans living near nuclear reactors. A preventive step one expert warns might do more harm than good.
The compound can be used to block the thyroid gland’s absorption of radioactive iodine.
The idea is to give it to every household within a 20-mile radius of a United States nuclear power plant “in recognition of the probability that rapid evacuation during a nuclear melt-down will be difficult and time consuming.”
Markey explained that the battle to stop a suspected melt-down at a Japanese plant should spur the Obama administration to action.
“Despite more than 30 years of clear and unequivocal evidence that potassium iodide protects people, especially young children, who are most vulnerable, from cancer causing releases of radioactive iodine that would happen if a nuclear disaster occurred, the nuclear industry has continued to fight its use,” Markey at a press conference.
A 2002 law requires the United States government to stock-pile potassium iodide, and make it available to state/local governments in preparation for a possible nuclear accident, but the congressman explained the provision has not been enforced.