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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   April 22, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160

State Receives Potassium Iodide Pills

TRENTON-New Jersey has received a free supply of 722,000 potassium iodide pills from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and will soon announce how the radiation protection pills will be distributed to people living, working or visiting areas near nuclear power plants, said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

Potassium iodide, scientifically referred to as KI, offers cancer protection to the thyroid gland in cases of a radiological release. If taken before or shortly after radiological exposure, KI blocks the thyroid gland's ability to absorb radioactive iodine.

Deciding how best to distribute the pills is the Medical Emergency and Disaster Prevention and Response Expert Panel (MEDPREP), a group of top New Jersey health experts formed in November by then Governor-elect James E. McGreevey to ensure New Jersey's health care system is prepared to effectively respond to acts of terrorism, disease outbreaks, natural disasters and other emergencies. Commissioner Lacy chairs the panel that will issue its recommendations to the Governor next month.

"To protect the health and security of New Jersey families, Governor McGreevey has made a major budget commitment in the areas of bioterrorism preparedness, while ensuring the state lives within its means," said Dr. Lacy. "Making KI pills available to those within 10 miles of nuclear power plants is one of the steps we are taking to keep New Jersey safe. The Governor has dedicated $25 million to ensuring that New Jersey has an agile, coordinated public health system for prevention of and response to health threats related to acts of terrorism."

In total, 33 states and 1 Native American nation within 10-mile Emergency Planning Zones (EPZ) around nuclear power plants have been offered a free supply of KI by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The pills were made available free-of-charge to states on a first-come, first-serve basis for distribution to individuals within those zones. New Jersey, the 11th state to accept the offer, has two qualified EPZs around plants in Ocean and Salem Counties.

"Getting KI pills is a preparedness and prevention measure. We are not aware of any imminent danger or threat," said Dr. Lacy. "We have accepted the pills because they work, are available and are free, and because they are an integral part of our comprehensive preparedness plan. Our hope is that we will never have to use them."

Dr. Lacy cautioned that KI pills are not a panacea, saying "while the pills offer protection of the thyroid, they offer no protection from other injuries due to radiological exposure. Evacuation and sheltering are still the primary modes of protection in a radiological emergency."

New Jersey's supply of 722,000 KI pills is enough for two pills to all persons who live, work or vacation within 10 miles of the nuclear power plants in Ocean and Salem Counties. The number of pills needed was decided based on the peak populations.

New Jersey's KI distribution plan will be managed by the Office of Emergency Management within the Division of State Police, in collaboration with the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Environmental Protection.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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