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8 things to know about preparing for a nuclear accident in York Region

Most York Region residents eligible for KI pills
Jan. 27, 2020
Kim Zarzour

You may not have appreciated being awoken by the early-morning false alarm this month, warning of an “incident” at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, but the emergency alert was a wake-up call of a different sort.

Many residents of York Region were surprised to learn they live close enough to the power plant to be eligible for a government-supplied potassium iodide (KI) pill.

After the alert was mistakenly sent at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 12, there were reports of a surge of online orders for the pills that protect the body from radioactive elements.

Richmond Hill resident Susan Ram Raifman decided to add the pill to her medicine cabinet.

“It really scared the crap out of me when I saw the false alarm,” she said. “Nothing wrong with being safe.”

The mistaken alert was an opportune time for the Region of York to remind people about emergency readiness, said Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Richard Gould. “This is one proactive measure that people can take to increase their personal levels of preparedness.”

Here’s what you need to know:

1.All homes within 50 km of Darlington and Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations --which includes 95 per cent of York Region --can obtain KI pills free of charge.

2.KI pills have been available to York Region residents since 2014. Some areas of King, Vaughan, East Gwillimbury and Georgina are not within the 50 km boundary.

3.In the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency and a release of radioactive iodine, KI pills will help prevent the development of thyroid cancer, used in conjunction with other protective measures such as evacuation, shelter-in-place, food and water controls.

4.It is highly likely that individuals living in York Region would be directed to take KI --most exposure control measures are planned for the 10 km area around a nuclear generating station.

5.Dosage varies depending on the size of the individual and duration of exposure. The Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario will provide instructions through radio, TV, internet and other available channels on where, when, how, and by whom KI should be taken. It is important to wait for this notification. Do not take the pills unless instructed to do so.

6.As of Jan. 20, there were over 60,000 orders on the website since the beginning of January. More than 12,000 of these were from York Region homes and businesses.

7.You can use the locator on to check your postal code and find the online order form for KI pills.

8.More information on the protection offered by KI pills is available from the Ministry of Health.