iodide pills

Iodide pill orders skyrocket in Ontario after false alarm nuclear alert

After an emergency alert about a situation at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station was sent in error to millions of people in Ontario this past weekend, residents placed 32,388 orders for potassium iodide (KI) pills in the span of two days.

Ontario Power Generation told the Canadian Press that there are typically between 100 and 200 orders for the pills each month, but all 32,388 orders were placed between Sunday and Monday following the incident.

"In the very unlikely event of a nuclear emergency and a release of radioactive iodine to the public, KI pills will help prevent the development of thyroid cancer, and are especially effective at safeguarding children's thyroid glands," according to preparetobesafe.ca, a website operated by Durham Region, the City of Toronto and Ontario Power Generation. 

All homes and businesses in Ontario within 10 km of nuclear facilities are required by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to have KI pills on hand.

Anyone within 50 km of nuclear facilities is also encouraged to order KI for delivery through preparetobesafe.

"It is important for each household to have a supply of these pills because they are most effective if taken just before or soon after exposure to radioactive iodine," the preparetobesafe website explains.

The website also states that the risk of side effects is extremely low for all age groups who have normal thyroid function and that "the overall benefit during a nuclear emergency outweighs the risks of side effects."

It also instructs residents to only take the pills if instructed to do so by the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario during an emergency. 

Following the initial alert sent out to all of Ontario early Sunday morning, another message was issued informing residents that it had been a mistake and there was no active nuclear situation taking place. 

Ontario has since launched an investigation into the false alarm. 

Lead photo by

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission


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