East end given iodine pills as nuclear disaster precaution via The Star

200,000 GTA homes and businesses have just received pills to protect them from radiation

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.


People who live and work within 50 km of the power plants — the “secondary zones” — are also eligible to order the pills for free from preparetobesafe.ca. Encompassing almost all of Toronto and Durham Region, as well as swathes of York and Peel Regions, Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough and Northumberland Counties, this area has a combined population of more than 4.5 million people. According to the OPG, roughly 6 million pills have been stockpiled. With an adult dose equaling four pills, that’s only enough for 1.5 million people.


In Japan, Stensil notes, researchers have documented higher rates of thyroid cancer in children who live within 50 km of the doomed Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Switzerland, he adds, provides KI pills to everyone living within 50 km of its nuclear facilities.

“For KI to be effective, you need to take it within a few hours of a nuclear accident,” Stensil says. “If an accident happens, it’s too late to try and order them over the web.”

Stensil thinks that our nuclear emergency plans are in dire need of an update.

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