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Editorial: Potassium iodide tablets are helpful

Florida state officials are expected to decline an offer by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to provide people living within 200 miles of nuclear power plants with free potassium iodide (also known as KI) tablets.

The tablets reduce the risk of getting thyroid cancer due to radiation exposure and should be available to people who may want to keep them on-hand in case of a radiation leak.

Florida officials are making a big mistake by planning to decline this offer.

Potassium iodide tablets work when there is potential exposure to radiation. The tablets are taken (one per adult and one per child) and work by saturating the thyroid with KI, thus preventing radioactive iodine from being absorbed. Thyroid cancer is one of the most common effects of radiation exposure.

A study conducted in Poland showed that 17 million people who took the pills did not experience a significant increase in thyroid cancer. The study was sparked by the 1986 Chernobyl accident. The use of KI was not widespread and 2,000 children developed thyroid cancer following the accident.

The distribution of KI tablets in the United States is supported by several groups, but only Massachusetts has accepted the offer. Critics of the pill say it will create a false sense of security should an accident occur, and they worry that people will take the pills but not evacuate.

But if the pills are distributed, they should be done at meetings wherein the public is educated as to when to take the pills, how many to take and when the proper time is to evacuate. No one said the pills should take the place of evacuation, and the public should be educated to understand this.

People are not stupid and deserve to be given an opportunity to lessen the effects of radiation exposure. KI is free, and Florida should reconsider its stance on its distribution.