Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (January 11, 2002) -- Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Secretary Jane T. Nishida announced today that Maryland has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a supply of potassium iodide (KI). MDE, in its role as Maryland's liaison to the NRC, submitted the formal request for KI to the NRC this afternoon.

KI is an over-the-counter medication used to protect the thyroid gland in the event of a radiation emergency. “Acquiring KI will be a supplement to the state’s long standing emergency plans already in place in the event of a nuclear incident,” Secretary Nishida said. “Upon reconsideration of the matter following the events of Sept. 11 last year, Maryland did not want to miss this opportunity to further enhance its existing emergency response capabilities.”

When potassium iodide is ingested, it is taken up by the thyroid gland. In the proper dosage, and taken at the appropriate time, it will effectively saturate the thyroid gland so that radioactive iodines will not be accumulated in the thyroid gland. Acute effects from exposure to high doses of radioactive iodine include thyroiditis, while chronic and delayed effects include hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer.

MDE reached the decision to obtain an allotment of KI for Marylanders’ use after conferring with Governor Parris N. Glendening, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the Maryland Emergency Management Agency as well as other state and local emergency planners. Distribution plans, storage and other logistical details once the KI is delivered are being developed by a workgroup comprised of similar representatives. The workgroup will also develop and distribute fact sheets about KI and its use.

“The acquisition of potassium iodide is another step we can take to enhance the safety of Maryland residents living near nuclear power plants,” said DHMH Secretary Dr. Georges C. Benjamin. “In today’s world, any action we can take to ease the public’s anxiety is well worth the effort.”

The amount of KI Maryland will receive will be based on the number of citizens residing within 10 miles of a nuclear power facility. The NRC will provide one to two doses per citizen. Approximately 80,000 Marylanders in Calvert, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford and St. Mary's Counties live within 10 miles of either the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant or the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station located in Pennsylvania. The NRC will verify the population data in the request and may arrange for delivery of the stockpile in as early as 30 days. Although KI has proven to be effective in protecting the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine, it does not protect against all types of radiation exposure. Careful emergency planning and evacuation are the primary means to prevent exposure to accidentally released nuclear materials. In addition, individuals who are allergic to shellfish or iodine should not take KI since it could provoke an allergic reaction.