The Campaign’s first action was a door-to-door canvass in Frenchtown Charter Township of Monroe County in October, 2015. Volunteers provided information and offered a Statement of Support calling on federal and state emergency planning officials for the direct delivery of KI to every resident in the Emergency Planning Zone of the Fermi-2 nuclear power plant near Monroe, MI and for expansion of the current 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) to a 50-mile radius of Fermi-2. This would add protection for residents of Ann Arbor, Detroit and Toledo, Ohio.
The effort to directly distribute KI in the United States began as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is requiring its nuclear industry to deliver KI directly to the home addresses of Canadian citizens within the 10-kilometer (6 miles) emergency planning zones around Canadian nuclear power plants in Ontario by December 31, 2015. This action is part of Canada’s response to lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.
A six-mile radius, however, is not effective given the demonstrated reach of contamination from a fast-moving nuclear accident. In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster spread significant radioactive contamination out more than 100 miles from the disaster site. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine sent radioactive iodine even farther where tremendously high rates of thyroid cancers have not yet diminished.
If taken in immediately in advance or at the time of exposure, potassium iodide (KI) is proven to provide effective protection to the thyroid gland, particularly those of infants and children, from cancer-causing radioactive iodine (I-131) that would likely be released during a severe nuclear accident. In conjunction with evacuation and temporary shelter-in-place from radioactive fallout, it can provide effective protection from the fast-moving cloud of I-131 gas at the leading edge of a nuclear release. To be effective, however, the KI must be readily at hand in home medicine cabinets or automobiles to be taken immediately upon notification of an emergency response. KI is not to be mistaken for a blanket “anti-radiation” pill. It only provides protection by saturating the thyroid gland with a concentration of a stable iodine compound often found in common table salt and should be taken at specified doses.
The American Thyroid Association (ATA) strongly recommends that all residents in the 50-mile ingestion pathway zone of all nuclear power plants receive a supply of KI tablets by mail or direct to door delivery in advance of the next nuclear crisis. It further recommends that KI be stockpiled in schools, police stations and fire departments out to 200 miles from every U.S. nuclear power plant. At 10 cents per tablet for 24 hours of protection, state and federal emergency planners must be compelled to make this public health recommendation a requirement around every nuclear power station.
Residents in the 10-mile radius of Fermi’s EPZ are occasionally mailed a pamphlet with a voucher to be redeemed at specific pharmacies for free KI tablets. According to a Michigan Department of Community Health study conducted in 2011, only 5.3% of eligible recipients actually redeemed the vouchers for the KI tablets. Obviously, voluntary pick-up of the thyroid-protecting KI is not providing the needed emergency preparedness and public health protection for many at-risk.