The long, slow road to thyroid protection for Cape kids

Eleven years after the law was passed requiring the Department of Public Health to provide KI to the most at-risk towns, just four of the Cape’s 15 towns have programs making KI available to their most vulnerable population: schoolchildren. These towns have distribution plans and KI stockpiled in their schools:

  • Bourne
  • Chatham
  • Harwich
  • Yarmouth

Cape Downwinders Cooperative KI Index

In September of 2013, the Superintendent of the Nauset school district, which encompasses Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Brewster, stated

“At this time the Nauset Public Schools do not have any plans to pursue the distribution of potassium iodide pills to our students but we remain open to the concept.”

It was two years after the law was passed before the Mass. DPH Radiation Control Program officially finalized their potassium iodide regulations in April, 2004.

The official story on:
Nov. 12, 2004
Feb. 18, 2004
Nov. 14, 2003
August, 2003

On Nov. 12, 2004, Cape Downwinders spoke with Robert Walker, Director of the MDPH’s Radiation Control Program, and was advised that of 28 towns eligible for KI under the 2002 state law, only 6 responded to his February letter to Boards of Selectmen. A letter sent last August to the Boards of Health in the remaining towns, which gave an October deadline, brought the total number of responding towns to 19. All towns which responded want KI, but 9 eligible towns are about to be shut out. Mr. Walker thought the next opportunity for such towns would be when the state replenishes it’s supply due to KI expiry dates (he thought this might be 2007 as expiry is from date-of-manufacture).

Eligible towns which reportedly had not responded were: Aquinnah, Barnstable, Chilmark, Eastham, Edgartown, Gloucester, Manchester-By-The-Sea, and Wellfleet.

Director Walker also said that no Massachusetts electricity supplier purchases electricity from Seabrook, hence Pilgrim’s owner – Entergy – will be responsible for all KI purchased under this beyond-10-mile program. In public comments, Entergy indicated it will fight ‘right to the top’ against paying for KI for Cape Anne communities.

On approximately Feb. 18, 2004, in response to requests made by Cape Downwinders, Director Walker, (MDPH RCP), sent the following revised timeline to the office of State Representative Shirley Gomes:

“As promised during our phone conversation, following is my projected timeline for distributing KI to cities and towns on Cape Cod, the Islands and Cape Ann.

  1. Contact cities and towns to determine participation – by February 13, 2004
  2. Notify power reactor operator and affected electric companies of the KI program and their obligation to fund it – by February 13, 2004
  3. Hold public hearing on regulations – March 11, 2004
  4. Send regulation to Secretary of State’s office for promulgation – By April 1, 2004
  5. Request quotes for cost of KI in accordance with state purchasing procedures – by April 1, 2004
  6. Select vendor – by April 30, 2004.
  7. Issue invoices to power reactor operator and affected electric companies – by May 15, 2004 (or as soon as the statute has been amended to allow us to deposit the revenue in the correct account)
  8. Issue purchase order for KI – by June 30, 2004
  9. Distribute KI to participating towns – by August 1, 2004 [emphasis added]

It should be noted that the timing of items 5 and 7 above are not within DPH control. There are two companies that manufacture KI, and we will need to wait for their quotes before proceeding. Similarly, we must await statute amendment and payment from the charged utilities prior to issuing the purchase order for the KI. Any slippage in these deadlines would be attributable to these two factors.


Bob Walker, Director
Radiation Control Program”

On Nov. 14, 2003, nearly a year after the KI bill was signed into law, Cape Downwinders received the following from Director Walker:

“The regulation is still in the internal review stages, but I would expect it to be made public within the next few of months. In order to promulgate any regulation there must be at least one hearing, and we are required to publish the Notice of Hearing at least 21 days before that hearing.
Comments can be received during the hearing(s) and we typically will consider comments received at least a week after the hearing(s). Therefore, the minimum comment period would be four weeks.”

In August, 2003 Director Walker, in a telephone conversation with Cape Downwinders, estimated the pills would be “distributed by the end of 2003” according to the following process:

  1. The law signed in December of 2002 was flawed because it directed the KI funds into an account which the MDPH would not have been able to use.
  2. This problem in the law was fixed on July 1, 2003.
  3. Only then could the department begin drafting a regulation to implement the law.
  4. Adoption of the regulation is a public process, which includes public comment.
  5. Once there is a regulation, a determination of tablets needed will be made.
  6. Then bids for the KI will be sought.
  7. Then funds will be obtained as provided by the law.
  8. When the money is there, the winning bid will be approved.
  9. When the KI is there it will be distributed according to the above-mentioned regulation.

Cape Downwinders Cooperative KI Index

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One Response to The long, slow road to thyroid protection for Cape kids

  1. janet azarovitz says:

    With the delivery of the KI to the towns on the Cape, there seems to be renewed effort by the Health Agent in each town to work towards distributing them. Each one of us should go to town hall, ask for their KI pills and ask whether or not it is in the schools and then state, emphatically, that it should be! I would suggest writing letters to the editor of all local media and be prepared to go to local school superintendents, school committee and Board of Health meetings to ask that it be dispensed in the schools armed with information that proves that it should be. Using info from this website as well as NRC, MDPH, CDC, Mass Medical Association. Go with examples of plans including permission slips, (advice on who should NOT take it), put together by other Cape School Departments and information that will help them make their decisions.