East end given iodine pills as nuclear disaster precaution
If you live in Durham Region or Scarborough, you may have just been mailed a package of pills in a calming sky blue box. Those pills are meant to protect you in the event of a nuclear disaster — a disaster that you, living within a sensitive 10km zone surrounding the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations, would be on the frontlines of.
“A serious nuclear accident is extremely unlikely,” says Ontario Power Generation (OPG) spokesperson Neal Kelly.
“(But) we worked with Toronto Health and Durham Health and we came up with a plan.”
200,000 homes and businesses have just received potassium iodide (KI) pills in a $1.5 million OPG-funded project that is being run in conjunction with Durham Region and the City of Toronto. Also known as RadBlock, the pills prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, thus reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. As a gas, radioactive iodine can travel quickly and is easily inhaled.
“It’s for one thing and one thing only — and that’s to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer,” Ken Gorman, Durham Region’s director of environmental health, says of the pills. The pills are not blanket anti-radiation medication, Gorman adds, and they should only be taken as directed immediately after a radioactive release.
“Radioactive iodine would only be one of the radioactive elements that could be released during an emergency-type situation.”
In 2014, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) ordered OPG to distribute the pills for free to everyone living and working within the nuclear plants’ 10 km “primary zones” by the end of 2015. In Toronto, that means pretty much everyone who lives east of Morningside Ave. Previously, the pills were available at local pharmacies, but few residents bothered to pick them up.