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He said the federal government should ensure that state plans call for KI to be stored in places where kids congregate, particularly schools, and preferably in a liquid form, which he said is more easily given to younger children.
Fourteen states have chosen to receive the liquid form from the federal government, according to Patricia Milligan, senior technical adviser for preparedness and response at the NRC. She said tablets store better and last longer than the liquid form, and can be mashed up in applesauce or fruit juice to make them more palatable to kids.
Milligan added that each state comes up with a plan that works for it, and the federal government can't dictate how potassium iodide is to be distributed.
"Some states pre-distribute, some stockpile, some states do a combination thereof," she said. "Some schools and school districts have chosen not to receive KI, because they don't want to be responsible for administering potassium iodide; they'd rather the kids get on the bus and leave."
She said that the NRC is "absolutely confident" that the 10-mile radius is sufficient. The nuclear energy industry also says stockpiling beyond that is unnecessary.
Dr. Fred Mettler, a University of New Mexico radiologist who led an international study of health effects after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, said having potassium iodide around plants is of fairly limited use.
"I think the focus is wrong on potassium iodide," he said. "I think the focus clearly needs to be on the food chain."
Thousands of cases of thyroid cancer after Chernobyl are blamed on the Soviet Union's failure to stop children in the region from drinking milk contaminated with radioactive iodine. But KI proponents also cite the Chernobyl experience, noting studies have shown potassium iodide reduced incidents of thyroid cancer to children exposed to radiation.
The Japanese nuclear crisis has sparked a big demand for KI in the U.S., even though public health officials said the risk was confined to Japan. Anbex Inc., a leading supplier of the tablets, sold out the day of the tsunami, said company president Alan Morris. The company began shipping again this week.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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