Potassium Iodide Pills

August 5, 2014

Potassium iodide pills – often referred to as KI pills – are used to protect your thyroid gland from radioactive iodine that could be released into the air during a nuclear radiological emergency. KI pills are a protective tool used during an emergency; however, not all countries distribute KI pills the same way.

Pre-Distribution in Canada

There is no current national standard in Canada for the pre-distribution of KI pills. For instance, KI pills are pre-distributed to all residences (about 4,000 households) in the 20 km emergency planning zone around the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant (NPP) in New Brunswick. In Quebec, KI pills are pre-distributed to all residences (about 14,000 households) in the 8 km emergency planning zone around the Gentilly-2 NPP. The CNSC is currently looking at regulatory approaches that would standardize the pre-distribution of KI pills to residents living near power reactors.

Pre-Distribution in the United States

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires KI pill distribution to be “considered”, rather than “required”. This allows individual states to decide whether or not to pre-distribute KI pills. Several approaches are used, with some states choosing to pre-distribute the pills, while others prefer to maintain local stockpiles. Pre-distribution is done by several means, including door-to-door and mail.

U.S. States without KI distribution programs for the general population that have nuclear power plants within their borders include: Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin.

U.S. States with KI distribution programs for general population are divided into two groups. States who Stockpile KI for post-incident distribution and states who Pre-distribute (includes stockpiling for post-incident distribution). Those who Stockpile include: Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Arizona and those who pre-distribute include: California, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Connecticut, New Jersey, Tennessee, Delaware, New York, Vermont, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Pre-Distribution around the world

Other countries that pre-distribute KI pills include France, Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland – to name just a few. Each country sets different distances around their NPPs to pre-distribute KI pills, with some countries also stockpiling pills at schools, pharmacies and local businesses.

Some countries like Germany and most of the United Kingdom stockpile KI pills at certain locations, to be distributed by emergency services if required.

Learn more about KI pills

For information on how KI pills work to protect your body, take a look at our feature article “Potassium Iodide - An Effective Protective Measure”.

Radiation doses

Check out our Radiation Doses module on the CNSC website, to learn about different measures of radiation and where they come from.