US issues tablets for potential terrorist attack

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 20 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:119

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  1. Deborah Josefson
  1. Nebraska

    In the wake of last September's terrorist attacks, the US government has been stockpiling potassium iodide tablets and offering them to states that house nuclear reactors in the hope the pills would afford some protection in the event of a terrorist attack. So far, however, only 16 states have taken up the offer. Some, such as New York and California, are already distributing the pills to communities living near nuclear plants; others, such as Florida, are storing them in secret locations for future use.

    If taken soon enough the potassium iodide saturates the thyroid gland, preventing the uptake of radioactive iodine into the thyroid and the possible development of thyroid cancer. States that have opted out of the programme feel that the potassium iodide pills are a form of whitewash that would hinder evacuation plans, cause havoc, and instil a false sense of security.

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    (Credit: AP/PAUL VATHIS)

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