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Charlotte Area

Local Health Depts To Distribute Free Nuclear Preparedness Medicine Saturday

Charlotte area health officials are hoping to get potassium iodide pills in the hands of people who live near the region's two nuclear plants. If there were a radioactive leak at one of Duke Energy's nuclear plants on Lake Norman or Lake Wylie, thousands of people would be in danger. Health officials say nothing can substitute for evacuation in a nuclear emergency. But for those living closest to it, there is a little white pill that might help. "Potassium iodide is a chemical compound that closely resembles table salt," explains Mecklenburg County medical director Dr. Stephen Keener. "What it does is it fills up the thyroid gland with normal iodine so the body does not take in any radioactive iodine." That reduces the risk of thyroid cancer from radiation exposure. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends every home, business and school within a 10-mile radius of a nuclear plant have a supply of potassium iodide. That's about 30,000 people in the Charlotte area. So, health departments in five counties - Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba and Iredell - are holding a one-day distribution event this Saturday. The last time they did this was in 2002, but those pills have since expired. Many new residents to the region may have no idea they need potassium iodide. Dr. Keener knows the idea may be alarming to some, but he says it's just a matter of being prepared. "There's nothing about this distribution on Saturday that indicates that there's anything wrong, because there's not," says Keener. Potassium Iodide pills will be distributed September 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the following locations: North Mecklenburg High School, 11201 Old Statesville Road, Huntersville Southwest Middle School, 13624 Steele Creek Road Forestview High School, 5545 Union Road, Gastonia Pinewood Elementary School, 1925 North Main Street, Mt. Holly East Lincoln Community Center,8160 Optimist Club Road, Denver Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue, 4011 Slanting Bridge Road, Sherrills Ford Woodland Heights Elementary School, 288 Forest Lake Boulevard, Mooresville Pine Lake Preparatory, 104 Yellow Wood Circle, Mooresville (off Hwy 115 south of the Mt. Mourne VFD) At all other times, potassium iodide tablets are available free of charge through the local health department.