Potassium Iodide Distribution Program

Potassium Iodide
From Jen Tucker the City of San Clemente’s Emergency Planning Officer SCTimes circa 2010

San Clemente continues to support distribution of KI. Contact Jen Tucker regarding KI tablets at 949-361-6109 or via e-mail at KI@san-clemente.org

Today’s column is about the Potassium Iodide Public Distribution Program taking place in the cities of San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. I’ll explain a little about how the program works, what potassium iodide is, what it is not, and why we are doing the distribution.

How the Program Works

In the first week of April, 2010, each residence and business in San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano will receive a mailer about the distribution program. This mailer has a postcard attached that the recipient can fill out and mail back to receive a two-day supply of potassium iodide for each person in their household or business. The potassium iodide will arrive at the recipient’s home or business in 4 to 6 weeks. There is no charge for the potassium iodide.

What it is

Potassium iodide (chemically abbreviated KI) is an over-the-counter medication. In the unlikely event of a high-level radiological release @SCE_SONGS, it can help protect the human thyroid against radiation. KI does this by filling the thyroid with potassium iodide for about 24 hours. Because the thyroid is full of KI, it can’t absorb radioactive iodine. This has been found in studies to help prevent thyroid cancer among persons exposed to certain types of radiation. There are potential side effects from KI, and it should only be taken at the direction of public health officials. A list of the potential side effects is available on the city’s Web site, and will be included in the return mailer with the potassium iodide.

What it is Not

Potassium iodide is not an anti-radiation pill. It is only effective in protecting the thyroid, and even then against only one type of radioactive isotope. Those who are most vulnerable to thyroid cancer are children and young adults. Ingestion of potassium iodide would only be recommended as a supplemental measure, secondary to evacuation or sheltering in place.

Why it is Being Distributed

The cities of San Clemente, Dana Point, and San Juan Capistrano are all located within the roughly 10-mile radius surrounding the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). This 10-mile radius is also known as the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ).

If there were an emergency at SONGS, which resulted in a release of radiation with iodine, the people in the EPZ could (depending on wind direction), be in the pathway of a radioactive release (also known as a plume). The primary protective action persons in the path of the plume would be asked to take by officials is to evacuate the area or shelter in place. However, as noted above, potassium iodide can be taken as a supplemental protective measure.

Other Information

In 2003 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) offered to purchase KI for all 34 states with active nuclear power plants. Twenty-two, including California accepted the KI from the NRC, which the state then distributed to the public by mail. Additional KI was stockpiled for distribution at the EPZ’s reception and decontamination centers, should it ever be needed. This distribution program replaces the previously distributed KI.

KI is available without a doctor’s prescription in some local pharmacies and online from two manufacturers. Some residents and businesses who are new to the area have purchased KI since 2003. However, we felt it was important to provide an easy and free way for our residents and businesses to have KI for their emergency supply kits. After careful consideration, we determined that another mail-in program was the most effective way to get KI out to our residents.

Please watch your mail for your potassium iodide flyer and return the self-addressed, pre-paid postcard as soon as possible. For more information about the program and potassium iodide, please visit the City’s website at www.san-clemente.org.

Jen Tucker is the City of San Clemente’s Emergency Planning Officer, she can be reached at tuckerj@san-clemente.org or 949.361.6109.