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Usps iodide pills { December 3 2002 }

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USPS Workers Get Potassium Iodide Pills

By Siobhan McDonough
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, December 3, 2002; 3:22 AM

WASHINGTON U.S. postal workers are being given potassium iodide pills to protect against thyroid cancer in the event of a radiological emergency.

"Employees are out there in all of these communities nationwide and we wanted to err on the side of caution," Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan said.

The USPS said Monday it was buying nearly 1.6 million pills from Tampa-based Anbex, Inc. for distribution to workers who want to have the tablets if a radiological emergency occurs.

Potassium iodide is the only medication for internal radiation exposure. It has just one use to prevent thyroid cancer by shielding the thyroid from radioactive iodine, and it would help only if a dirty bomb used radioactive iodine instead of other radioactive substances, and then only for people close to the explosion.

The Food and Drug Administration-approved tablets are being offered to all 750,000 postal workers nationwide. Any employee who wants the pills in case of emergency will get two tablets.

"It's a proactive approach regarding the safety, health and well-being of employees nationwide," Brennan said.

Brennan said the pills are being offered much like free flu shots were offered in the wake of the anthrax scares after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The recommendation came up in meetings of the mail security task force, comprised of representatives of postal unions, management associations and the Office of the Inspector General, along with safety and medical specialists and members of the mailing industry.

In January, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it would provide free potassium iodide to 33 states that had residents living within a 10-mile radius of each of the nation's 102 nuclear reactors.

Like any medication, overdoses of potassium iodide can be dangerous. Some people may experience allergic reactions, including nausea or rashes.

Phone calls to the American Postal Workers Union and National Association of Letter Carriers were not immediately returned.

On the Net:

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Food and Drug Administration:

2002 The Associated Press

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