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Military Stocking Up On Anti-Radiation Pills

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 676 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... MILITARY STOCKING UP ON ANTI-RADIATION PILLS By Adam
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2002
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      By Adam Entous
      July 2, 2002


      WASHINGTON - At the urging of the Bush administration, military commanders
      are quietly stocking up on anti-radiation pills and making plans to give
      them to U.S. troops should they be exposed to radioactive fallout from an
      attack or accident, according to documents and officials.

      Suppliers of potassium iodide say shipments to the military have increased
      in recent months amid fears of war between nuclear-armed rivals India and
      Pakistan, and new terror threats against American targets including nuclear
      power plants.

      One of the largest orders -- 134,400 potassium iodide tablets for 9,600
      troops -- was shipped to the U.S. Army on May 28, according to records
      obtained by Reuters.

      If taken immediately after exposure, the tablets have been shown to protect
      the thyroid gland from diseases caused by radiation.

      A spokesman for U.S. Central Command said it was not distributing potassium
      iodide tablets to troops in Afghanistan and other South Asian countries,
      disputing the claims of several suppliers.

      The Pentagon would not discuss its potassium iodide policy, which was
      outlined in an internal memorandum issued two months after the Sept. 11
      attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.

      In the memorandum, dated Nov. 19, 2001, William Winkenwerder, assistant
      secretary of defense for health affairs, directed Army, Navy and Air Force
      commanders to assess the risk to troops and to develop "implementation plans
      on the use of potassium iodide."

      "The U.S. military overseas, their families, U.S. civilian workers and
      contractors may be at risk from hostile actions and other events against
      nuclear power plants resulting in radioactive iodine release," wrote
      Winkenwerder, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's chief health adviser.

      In November and in a follow-up memo issued on Jan. 24, Winkenwerder told the
      services that they "must ensure availability of supply" of potassium iodide.

      He also provided the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force with
      guidance on how the tablets should be administered. It depends on whether
      the radioactive material is inhaled or ingested and on how long troops are
      exposed to a radioactive plume.

      Winkenwerder put the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in charge
      of reviewing the plans.

      "We will take appropriate action when we get the plans," said Peter Esker,
      spokesman for the institute.

      The Pentagon would not elaborate.

      "The policy memo speaks for itself," said James Turner, a Pentagon
      spokesman. "The commanders-in-chief, in any given part of the world, will
      assess the situation and will be responsible for providing appropriate
      material to their troops."

      Underscoring U.S. fears that terrorists will try to use weapons of mass
      destruction, Winkenwerder announced on Friday a separate policy to vaccinate
      some military personnel against anthrax and to stockpile the vaccine for
      civilian use.


      Between January and June of this year, the military purchased more than
      400,400 potassium iodide tablets -- enough for at least 28,600 troops --
      through the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Supply Center in

      That amount represents an 80 percent increase over the amount of potassium
      iodide purchased by the military during the January to June period in 2001,
      according to Defense Supply Center records.

      The tablets were supplied by two companies -- Anbex Inc. and Carter-Wallace,
      which is now part of MedPointe Inc.

      Potassium iodide orders surged after Winkenwerder's memo. In December and
      January alone, more than 303,000 tablets were purchased, enough for more
      than 21,700 troops. A 29,400-tablet order for 2,100 troops was filled by the
      Defense Supply Center on April 6, followed by the Army's 134,400-tablet
      shipment on May 28 for 9,600 soldiers.

      The Defense Supply Center's figures do not include orders placed
      independently by the military services and their divisions, suppliers say.

      The move to supply potassium iodide to troops and their families comes amid
      heightened fears that terrorists might attack nuclear power plants in the
      United States and abroad, or try to use nuclear or radiological weapons.

      But potassium iodide's usefulness is limited since it must be taken almost
      immediately after exposure and only protects against absorption of
      radioactive iodine. The tablets offer no protection against other
      radioactive isotopes, which might be released by a "dirty" bomb and other
      radioactive weapons.

      Despite these limitations, the military is not alone in stocking up on
      potassium iodide. The Department of Health and Human Services has purchased
      1.6 million doses and plans to buy 5 million to 10 million more this year,
      officials said.

      The Department of Veterans' Affairs has placed two large orders so far this
      year on behalf of HHS -- the first went to Salt Lake City in case of an
      attack on the Olympic Games.

      The second order was placed within the last month for HHS' office of
      emergency preparedness, according to Veterans' Affairs. Officials would not
      disclose its destination.

      Stored in secret warehouses, HHS' stockpile would be tapped in the event of
      a "catastrophe, man-made or otherwise, at a nuclear power plant," spokesman
      Bill Pierce said.

      The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is also stocking up on the tablets as part
      of a program to make potassium iodide available to people living near
      nuclear power plants.



      Sabotage and Terrorism of Nuclear Power Plants:

      Potassium Iodide Anti-Radiation Pill FAQ:

      Civil Defense Radiation Detection Survey Meters, Geiger Counters &
      Dosimeters FAQ:


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