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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

American Thyroid Association Requests Potassium Iodide for AntiTerrorism

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) has sent a letter to the White House requesting that potassium iodide (KI) be included as part of the antiterrorism response of the nation. The ATA is a professional society of over 900 health professionals who specialize in treatment of diseases of the thyroid gland. They are concerned that we are ill-prepared to protect young people against developing thyroid cancer in the event of a release of radioactive iodine.

In the event of radiologic accident - as in an attack on a nuclear power plant or release of a so-called "dirty bomb" - radioactive iodine would be released into the atmosphere. KI needs to be made available to everyone within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant. These clinicians cite the Chernobyl accident of 1986 as proof that a nuclear event of this type could result in thousands of cases of thyroid cancer in children exposed to radioiodines released into the atmosphere.

Clinicians emphasize that KI must be readily available in sufficient amounts near vulnerable sites because the key to improved protection is to give the doses quickly. Individually sealed doses protected from light are long lasting and inexpensive. The ATA urges the White House to end the delay and implement the guidelines of the DHSS.

Hanford Power Plant in Washington State near the Columbia River is a site where iodine 131 was released between 1944 and 1951 as the government experimented with ways to extract plutonium more quickly. The federal government made a covert decision to use the Pacific Northwest as an experimental laboratory. Scientists researched the health effects of the fallout of thousands of curies that were released into the atmosphere on an unsuspecting public. The classified studies were made public in the 1980's. Babies and children were especially vulnerable to absorbing the fallout via the food chain - through cow's milk after the cows had grazed on contaminated vegetation.

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, WA released a study in 2004 revealing direct evidence that the risk of thyroid cancer rises with increasing exposure to radiation. They found the incidence of thyroid cancer was 45 times greater among those who received the highest radiation doses as compared with those in the lower level doses. 5 million people were exposed to radiation at Chernobyl and while thyroid cancer was nonexistent in children prior to the event, the incidence was devastating after the event.

We can avoid a repeat of this tragedy if only we heed the warnings of the ATA.

Image from Delmar Publishers, Inc. reproduced with permission: The thyroid gland produces T4 and T3 in response to a production of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland .
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