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Logo of pubhealthrepPublic Health Reports
Public Health Rep. 1983 Mar-Apr; 98(2): 123–126.
PMCID: PMC1424409

Predistribution of potassium iodide--the Tennessee experience.


Tennessee public health officials made a decision to predistribute potassium iodide tablets (KI) to householders in the vicinity of a nuclear powerplant. The tablets would be stored until needed in the event of a radiation emergency. The officials believed that it was important to have the option available as a means of protecting nearby residents. KI, ingested before or soon after exposure to radioactive iodine, can act as a thyroid blocker to protect the gland from accepting further iodine and, therefore, the radiation. A pilot project was undertaken to deliver, door to door, a package that contained KI tablets in sufficient quantity to supply a starter dose to each member of households within a 5-mile radius of the Sequoyah nuclear powerplant near Chattanooga. The package consisted of a vial of 14 130-mg tablets and a package insert from the manufacturer enclosed in a larger vial with a childproof cap. Home visitors who delivered the vials were professionals from the local public health departments, especially trained to answer questions about the project. About 66 percent of 5,591 homes accepted the medication. Extensive coverage of the project by information media was helpful in explaining local emergency plans as well as the KI distribution to the public.

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