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Residents pick up potassium iodide tablets as precaution for Three Mile Island nuclear accident

By David Barr
davidbarr@pressandjournal.com
717-944-4628
Posted 8/30/17

More than 3,000 free potassium iodide tablets were distributed to local residents by the state Department of Health on Thursday.

The MCSO building was one of five locations within a 10-mile radius …

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Residents pick up potassium iodide tablets as precaution for Three Mile Island nuclear accident

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More than 3,000 free potassium iodide tablets were distributed to local residents by the state Department of Health on Thursday.

The MCSO building was one of five locations within a 10-mile radius of Three Mile Island where the tablets, also known as KI, were being distributed. The other four locations were New Cumberland, Hummelstown, York and Elizabethtown. A total of 13,460 tablets were distributed in the five areas.

Potassium iodide pills can help protect the thyroid gland against harmful radioactive iodine in case of a nuclear accident. In the proper dosage, and taken at the appropriate time, it will saturate the thyroid gland in such a way that inhaled or ingested radioactive iodines will not be accumulated in the thyroid gland. The risk of thyroid effects is reduced, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Several people at the MCSO said they received pills for the same reason: precaution.

Charles High of Lower Swatara Township has received KI pills every time they’ve been distributed since the 1979 incident at Three Mile Island, although he’s never had to use them.

“Thank God,” he said.

He saw a notice that the pills were available and was being prudent in picking them up.

“Nobody expects you’ll ever need them,” High said.

James and Sue Young of Londonderry Township also have been picking them up for as long as they have been offered.

“We’re hoping we don’t have to try them out,” James said.

“One bad storm is bad enough,” Sue said, referring to the 1979 incident.

Heather Sharp of Royalton and her 4-year-old son Alex, got the KI pills as precaution, much like the others who came before them.

Sharp moved into the Royalton borough six years ago, and picked up the KI pills one other time since then and chose to do so again Thursday.

“I like to keep my family safe. It seemed like a best practice,” Sharp said of receiving the pills.

They weren’t the only family members to have young children with them at pickup time. Kate Brubaker and her daughter, Penny, elected to receive pills because Kate “figured we’d be on the safe side and get them.”

Kate’s mom had pills in the house when Kate was young and she moved into Middletown in March, so it would “probably be a good idea” if she continued to have the pills on hand.

“I’m a firm believer in, ‘You never know,’” Brubaker said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Others were a bit skeptical of the pills’ effectiveness.

Randy Miller of Middletown stopped in to pick up pills at the request of his wife, who was unable to make it. Miller was getting the pills for her, not for the two of them, saying she was more concerned about the situation where needing the pills was necessary than he was.

“I don’t worry about it too much,” Miller said. “I think if something happens at TMI, these pills won’t do anything.”

Anyone who did not receive tablets during Thursday’s giveaway can pick them up from the Dauphin County Health Center, located at 30 Kline Plaza, Harrisburg. The tablets are good until November 2024.

In 2016, 1,192 tablets were distributed at the Middletown location, and a total of 7,948 tablets were given away at all five locations. In 2015, a total of 13,892 tablets were given away from all five locations, with individual amounts at each location not tracked.

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