Toronto East-End Residents given Iodine Pills in the case of Nuclear Disaster

Precautionary pills are being sent to over 200,000 homes

Over 200,000 homes in the Durham and Scarborough areas are being shipped light blue boxes of Potassium Iodide, as The Star reports. Potassium Iodide is a substance that prevents the risk of Thyroid Cancer by stopping the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine.

The pills are a part of a preventive plan in the case of a major Nuclear Facility Meltdown; namely that of the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations. The surrounding homes within a 10 km radius belong to what’s called the “Primary Zone” of a Nuclear Blast.

Don’t start freaking out quite just yet though, as “a serious nuclear accident is extremely unlikely,” says Neal Kelly, the spokesperson for Ontario Power Generation. But as a precaution, “We worked with Toronto Health and Durham Health and we came up with a plan.”

In the event of a Nuclear Meltdown like the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan, Radioactive iodine gas spreads and infects quickly, reaching areas up to 50 km in every direction from the blast site. The gas has been known to cause thyroid cancer. Near Fukushima, there has been growing incidence of children with the disease since the explosion in 2013.

The entire area that encompasses the blast radius covers a range of 4.5 million people that could be effected. While only the primary zones are being sent RadBlock, Toronto residents outside of the area can request pills at RadBlock is blanket medication, so the pills need to be administered within a couple hours after a nuclear blast to become effective.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst at Greenpeace Canada thinks the current program needs to be updated. “These pills should be pre-distributed to everyone within the GTA,” he explains. “There’s no justification behind that 10 km number — it’s based on no modeling.”

If a blast happens, it would be too late for many Torontonians to protect themselves since the pills would not be readily accessible within a couple hours for ever person. The scary fact is that only 6 million pills have been stockpiled according to the Ontario Power Generation. Considering a full dosage of RadBlock requires four pills, there would only be enough for a third of the population in the blast range.

“Our nuclear emergency plans predate Chernobyl.” Stensil says. “With 10 reactors in the GTA that’s completely reckless… The Ontario government needs to upgrade its nuclear emergency plans, publicly and transparently and it’s almost five years since Fukushima and they haven’t done it yet.”

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Main image courtesy of Michael B. via Flickr