Amherstburg residents will be given iodide pills to protect against potential nuclear emergency

Residents on Amherst Point and Boblo Island fall within the primary zone of Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, located near the shores of Lake Erie.

Potassium iodide pills are salt tablets that prevent the body from absorbing potentially radioactive poisoning

Jyllian Mackie with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says potassium iodide pills will be given to residents near the Fermi nuclear plant in Michigan.

To reduce the risk of radiation poisoning during an "unlikely" nuclear disaster in Michigan, health officials are distributing protective pills to residents on Amherst Point and Boblo Island. 

The two communities fall within the primary zone of Fermi 2 nuclear power plant located near the shores of Lake Erie, just south of Amherst and Boblo. 

New regulations from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission require the distribution of potassium iodide pills, which are salt tablets that prevent the body from absorbing potentially radioactive iodine.

Even though the regulations don't apply to U.S. facilities, officials from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit are distributing the pills anyway.

"We still want our community to be prepared," said Jyllian Mackie, the health unit's public health emergency preparedness coordinator. 

Primary zone precaution

Primary zone residents are those living within a 16.1 km radius. The rest of Windsor and Essex County sit in the secondary zone, which means the pills are available to residents for purchase. 

A package of pills, good for about two days, for a family of five costs $20, according to Mackie.

Because human bodies absorb radioactive iodine, the pills are used to get into the thyroid and block the poisonous iodine. 

Mackie added the risk of a nuclear emergency at Fermi 2 has not changed, but the regulations have, but that didn't do much to calm the concerns of Amherstburg residents.

Joyce Llewellyn said she has lived in the town for 18 years and never really thought about the plant exploding until now. If that day ever comes she isn't convinced the pills will be much protection.

"We'll just put them away, and hopefully remember where they are when the time comes," she said. "But then we said, 'Who knows? If it blows up, we wouldn't have to worry about the pill.'"

Deputy Fire Chief Lee Tome says Amherstburg has been working on the nuclear plan since November 2015.

The Amherstburg Fire Department has been working on an emergency nuclear plan since November 2015. 

"Certainly some of the residents have voiced their concerns in regards to the Fermi plant being so close to Amherstburg," said Lee Tome, deputy fire chief. "The probability of an incident at Fermi is extremely low, but we need to have a plan in place if something did happen, because the consequences would be high."