March 14, 2011

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Citing worries over an earthquake-damaged Japanese nuclear power plant, a US lawmaker called Monday for giving “emergency pills” to guard Americans near similar facilities from radiation illness.

Democratic Representative Ed Markey urged President Barack Obama’s top science adviser, John Holdren, to provide potassium iodide — also known as KI — to US populations within 20 miles (32 kilometers) of a nuclear power facility.

The pills can help protect the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine from a leaky reactor, noted Markey, who called the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant “clearly the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl” in Ukraine 25 years ago.

“We should not wait for a catastrophic accident at or a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor in this country to occur to implement this common-sense emergency preparedness measure,” said Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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