State To Begin Distributing Pills To Protect Against Radiation

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state this summer will begin distributing pills that protect against radiation to local health departments in communities near nuclear power plants.

In May, the Ohio Department of Health requested about 640,000 pills from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission after months of discussion with local leaders and residents. The commission announced last December that it would provide the pills at no cost to states with power plants.

FirstEnergy Corp. operates the Davis-Besse plant in Oak Harbor east of Toledo, Perry east of Cleveland and Beaver Valley in western Pennsylvania, across the state line from Columbiana County.

Jay Carey, a health department spokesman, said the state will give local health departments the pills within the next few months to stock special distribution centers that would be set up after a radiation release.

Individuals living and working within a 10 mile radius of the plants also will receive pills, however, the timing on that has not yet been determined, he said.

The pills have a shelf-life of five to seven years. They work by stopping the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, which can guard against thyroid cancer and other diseases that could result from radiation exposure. They must be taken within six hours of exposure, and don't guard against all types of radiation.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)