Chances are, the potassium iodide pills many York County residents picked up in 2003 to protect themselves in the event of a nuclear emergency now are gathering dust somewhere in their medicine cabinets, largely forgotten for the past four years.
But those who peeked at the packages on those pills might have noticed that the expiration date is coming up. Have no fear, the pills are good for at least another two years, according to scientists, and public health officials are busy ordering a new batch of pills to distribute to the hundreds of thousands of residents who live within a 10-mile radius of a nuclear plant in the Carolinas.
In 2003, not long after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, thoughts of not only an accident but also the possibility of an attack on the Catawba Nuclear Station prompted many local residents to take advantage of the free offer of potassium iodide pills. The pills don't offer complete protection from the ravages of radiation, but they can help protect the thyroid, which has been the most frequent site of cancer following exposure to high-dose radiation.
Those who have the pills should keep them until replacements are available. York County officials will advise residents within the danger zone of the distribution plan once the new pills are shipped.
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Cotton Howell, York County's director of emergency management, stressed that evacuation is the best protection. We doubt anyone will have to be reminded of that if a disaster occurs.
But, while we don't like to contemplate the unthinkable, it pays to be prepared. It can't hurt to keep the pills handy.
Potassium iodide pills don't protect the whole body from radiation but they can help.