Bush Administration Continues to Sweep Science Under the Rug

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce and Homeland Security Committees, condemned the Bush administration’s decision to ignore a 2002 law he authored requiring that the cheap and well-established anti-radiation drug potassium iodide be provided to all communities living within 20 miles of nuclear power plants.

Rep. Markey said, "The Bush administration appears intent on politicizing every scientific decision possible, against the recommendations of the nation's scientific experts and ignoring the clear intent of the law I authored nearly six years ago.

"It is inexcusable that the White House would decide to leave children and their families totally unprotected from a potential meltdown or terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant. Especially when the cost of protecting these Americans is mere pennies per pill.

After a nuclear power plant meltdown or a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant, potassium iodide (KI) protects the thyroid from the radiation release. Children are at especially high risk of developing thyroid cancer after exposure to such radiation. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002 requires the president to make KI available to communities living within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant.  Almost six years later, the 20-mile KI distribution has never been implemented, and today the White House decided to waive the requirement altogether.

"Apparently, the White House thinks that ignoring Congress's clear mandate and doing nothing in the event of a major nuclear release will be more effective than distributing a proven anti-radiation drug. The White House Science Advisor is acting like the White House Corporate Cheerleader for the nuclear power industry," added Rep. Markey.

In 2004, the National Academies of Sciences conducted an exhaustive study of potassium iodide at the request of Congress and concluded that, "Potassium iodide should be available to everyone at risk of significant health consequences from accumulation of radioiodine in the thyroid in the event of a radiological incident.  KI should be available to infants, children, and pregnant and lactating women."  In 2001, the FDA concluded that, "The effectiveness of KI as a specific blocker of thyroid radioiodine uptake is well established..."

In the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, thyroid cancer rates spiked 10,000% among children and adolescents in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.  Poland, however, administered potassium iodide to 97% of its children and experienced no similar increase in thyroid cancer.  The FDA study concluded that, "The Polish experience supports the use of KI as a safe and effective means by which to protect against thyroid cancer caused by internal thyroid irradiation from inhalation of contaminated air or ingestion of contaminated food and drink when exposure cannot be prevented by evacuation, sheltering, or food and milk control."

The most respected voices in American medicine have endorsed the use of KI to prevent thyroid cancer in children.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that, "if administered right before exposure to radioiodines, KI can be 100 percent effective in preventing radiation-induced effects, including thyroid cancer."  The American Thyroid Association has found that, "KI prevents thyroid cancers arising in individuals exposed to the radioactive iodine that can be released in a nuclear reactor incident, such as might be caused by terrorist action."

"The White House's refusal to provide anti-radiation drugs, in defiance of the law and Congress, is more than negligence - it is the reckless endangerment of the American people.  Yet again, the Bush administration has decided to pretend that conclusive and well established science is worthless.  This time, their science-phobia is putting millions of Americans at needless risk from unforeseen nuclear accidents or terrorist attacks," Rep. Markey concluded.

January 25, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836