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The Daily Tar Heel

Pill Offered to Workers, Not Residents

In the case of a nuclear emergency where radiation is emitted, officials have determined that potassium iodide pills can be taken to prevent damage to the thyroid gland, according to the Food and Drug Administration Web site.

The Web site also states that the drug protects the gland from cancer-causing contaminants by saturating it with iodine.

Keith Poston, spokesman for Carolina Power & Light Co., said Shearon Harris has enough pills to distribute to a small group of employees who would work during an emergency.

But Poston also said neither the state nor plant officials are working to make these pills available to residents who live in the risk zone. Plant officials identify the risk zone as the area within a 10-mile radius of the plant.

Poston said he believes the potassium iodide pills should not be distributed broadly because the pills are not supposed to be taken whenever radiation is present. "It would have to be a fairly catastrophic event," Poston said. "(Potassium iodide pills) are not used for routine incidents."

Poston added that the drug was merely part of the protective gear needed in an emergency and that the officials' primary focus in the event of a nuclear catastrophe would be on evacuating residents and not on distributing the pills.

"(Potassium iodide pills) are only kept for a small group of employees who would work in an environment that needs this kind of protection," Poston said.

But some New Hill residents who live near the Shearon Harris plant said they are frustrated by their lack of knowledge about the drug and want to know more about making it available.

Farmer Woodrow Goodwin lives at 4300 Shearon Harris Road and can see the towers of the nuclear power plant from the windows of his house.

Goodwin said he keeps a careful ear on the radio in case of evacuation warnings and takes all safety precautions but knows little about the drug.

"What I know about (potassium iodide) I just read in the paper," Goodwin said.

"I don't know how the thyroid works, but I think it might be a good idea to have the drug on hand."

Bobby Murray, another farmer who lives near the nuclear power plant, said he had not heard of potassium iodide.

But Murray added that he thinks the management of Shearon Harris would make the decision to distribute it to people within the risk zone.

But other New Hill residents say they are content using evacuation as the sole safety measure.

Cecil Stone, who worked at the plant for more than 10 years and lives at 4048 Bonsal Road, said he didn't believe there was a drug that could counteract the effects of nuclear radiation.

"Nuclear radiation will eat you off your bones," Stone said."No scientist has made a drug that will stop that."

The City Editor can be reached


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